NC A&T women win MEAC title, top Hampton 72-65 in OT

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Jade Scaife found her happy place.

Down low on the right side, Scaife came up with two offensive rebounds and turned those into four points in the final minute of overtime.

Those were the key plays that lifted North Carolina A&T to a 72-65 win over Hampton in the championship game of the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference Tournament on Saturday and into the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

After a furious rally from third-seeded Hampton to erase a 10-point deficit in the final four minutes of regulation, it was the top-seeded Aggies (23-8) who came up with big plays down the stretch in overtime, scoring the final eight points to win their 11th-straight game and make their fourth NCAA appearance.

Scaife had a putback with 28 seconds left to end a three-shot possession. After a Hampton turnover, Kala Green, who made one of two free throws to tie the game with 1:34 to play, did the same thing but this time Scaife snared the offensive rebound. Scaife was fouled and made both free throws for a 70-65 lead with 16 seconds left. Hampton’s 24th turnover over the game allowed Le’on Hill to wrap up the scoring with two more free throws.

Scaife led North Carolina A&T with 15 points and seven rebounds. Mikaya Wilson and Green had 12 points apiece and Ccoriea Foy added 10.

Jephany Brown led Hampton (18-14) with 22 points, five in the Bears’ regulation-closing 13-3 run.

Hampton scored the first nine points and led 29-23 at halftime. However, the Bears missed their first their 10 shots of the third quarter before making the last and had eight turnovers to trail 42-39 entering the fourth quarter.

It was a wild end to regulation after Scaife hit a 3-pointer and then added a free throw a half-minute later to put A&T up 54-44. The Aggies put up some hurried shots and had two turnovers. A pair of free throws from Monnazjea Finney-Smith pulled Hampton within 54-52.

Alexus Lessears, a 45 percent foul shooter, ended the drought for the Aggies. Brown then hit a lovely step-back 3 to make it a one-point game. Green hit 1 of 2 free throws before Dejane’ James had a lovely assist to Mikayla Sayle to tie it up with at about eight seconds.

A&T inbounded the ball to half court, James stole it and fed Finney-Smith in the right corner but her game-winning attempt was off.

Neither team shot 35 percent and the Aggies were just 24 of 40 from the foul line.

Despite going 1 of 10 from the field and 10 of 16 from the foul line, Green was the tourney MVP. Lessears joined her on the all-tournament team.

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