NORFOLK, Va. — No matter who you are, it’s always tough to beat the same opponent on three occasions in the same season.
Last year, the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks proved that in their opening game of the 2016 MEAC Tournament. After scoring a pair of wins in the regular season over the Morgan State Bears, the Hawks opened the conference tournament looking for win number three.
Morgan State had other ideas, and put an end to the Hawks’ season.
Fast forward to the 2017 MEAC Tournament, and the Hawks find themselves in the same situation. In the regular season, the Hawks knocked off the North Carolina A&T Aggies in both meetings. On Monday night, the two teams squared off for the third time this year.
The Hawks won both regular games by 11 points, with the second win coming in a triple-overtime thriller.
Despite trailing by four points at the half, the Hawks ensured that history would not repeat itself. Eastern Shore scored 40 points in the second, and they pulled away down the stretch for the 74-67 victory.
With the win, the Hawks avoided a second-straight early exit in the MEAC Tournament. The play of senior Bakari Copeland was a big factor in their come-from-behind win.
In the last meeting between the two teams, the First Team All-MEAC selection put up 29 points and 10 rebounds in the win for the Hawks. He picked up right where he left off on Monday night, scoring a game-high 25 points and pulling down nine rebounds.
Ryan Andino also had himself a solid night. The junior guard was 5-of-9 from three point range, finishing with 15 points.
In their regular season finale, the Aggies took down the North Carolina Central Eagles for their first MEAC win of the season, 68-63. They looked impressive in the first half, and early in the second, but were ultimately unable to hold off the comeback efforts from the Hawks.
Eliel Gonzalez and James Whitaker scored 13 points apiece to lead the Aggies. Guard Sam Hunt was limited to just seven points.
The loss brings an end to what has been a disappointing season for the Aggies, who finish with a record of 3-29. Their win over the Eagles was their only victory over a Division I opponent on the year.
With the win, the Hawks now have two days off before returning to game action on Thursday in the quarter-finals. From there, they would have to win three games in as many days to reach the NCAA Tournament. Eastern Shore takes on the Hampton Pirates in the quarters.
– T. Bennett