NORFOLK, Va. — College basketball is a 40-minute game.
On Thursday night, both the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks and Hampton Pirates proved that to be true in their quarter-final match-up in the MEAC Tournament.
With a spot in the semifinals on the line, and a date against the top-seed North Carolina Central Eagles, it was a tale of two halves for both teams.
An early run from the Hawks highlighted a big first half for Maryland-Eastern Shore, which led to a nine-point lead at the break. In the second half, a lengthy run for the Pirates gave them a one-point lead in the closing minutes.
As expected, the game came down to the final possession. After the Hawks took a two-point lead on a layup from Logan McIntosh with 12 seconds to play, the Pirates had one last chance to force overtime, or take a win.
Lawrence Cooks missed a three pointer with three ticks on the clock, but the Pirates grabbed the rebound. Trevond Barnes got a layup to fall for Hampton, but the buzzer had sounded.
It was a roller-coaster of emotions for the Hawks on Thursday, but they earned a spot in the MEAC semifinals with a 68-66 win over Hampton.
Freshman forward Tyler Jones led the way for the Hawks, scoring 23 points in the victory. Logan McIntosh added nine points and eight assists.
Freshman Jermaine Marrow recorded 19 points to lead Hampton.
Maryland-Eastern Shore opened the game on a 12-0 run to take all the momentum. Five early points from Bakari Copeland paced the offensive attack early on. Hampton did its best to cut into the lead and halt the momentum, but the Hawks made sure that it carried the positive flow into the break.
Just before the buzzer, Ryan Andino hit a three ball to push the Hawks’ lead back up to nine, at 50-41, after the opening 20 minutes.
In the second half, it was Hampton’s turn to use a lengthy run to take a lead of their own. With the Hawks holding a 53-44 lead with 12:34 to play in the game, the Pirates reeled off a 12-2 run of their own to take a one-point lead with under seven minutes on the clock.
The teams went back and forth down to the final buzzer. Devon Oakley got a layup to fall for the Pirates that tied the game up at 66-all with 41 seconds left on the clock. McIntosh responded with two points of his own to restore the Hawks’ lead with 12 seconds to play.
After a frantic finish, one that resulted in Hampton narrowly missing the final buzzer, the Hawks advanced to the semifinals of the MEAC Tournament with a 68-66 win.
It marks the first time since 1994 that the Hawks have reached the conference tournament semifinals.
With the loss, the dream of a three-peat is gone for Hampton (14-16), as the Pirates had represented the MEAC in the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two seasons.
On Friday, Maryland-Eastern Shore (14-19) will take on North Carolina Central in the first of two semifinal games in the MEAC Tournament. The winner will take on the winner of Friday night’s game between the Norfolk State Spartans and Howard Bison on Saturday.
– T. Bennett