AGGIE BASKETBALL TEAMS STILL WINNERS
In two gymnasiums 412 miles apart, the North Carolina A&T State University men and women’s basketball teams put a cap on the 2012-13 season.
In Harrisonburg, Va., the women dropped a first round Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) game to the James Madison University Lady Dukes 77-64. In Lexington, Ky., the men suffered a tough loss to the University of Louisville Cardinals in a Round 1 match up of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament.
Though both teams’ seasons ended Thursday, their fans say they don’t have anything to hang their heads about.
“We played our hardest – gave it 100 percent and that is something to be proud of,” alumnus Kenneth Crawford said.
Both teams have made Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) history this year. The women became the only team in conference history to make three WNIT appearances. This is the first time in MEAC history that two conference men’s teams have won NCAA tournament games in consecutive years.
“This has been an awakening for the university. It has been like it was back in the day,” graduate student, Dwayne Johnson said.
Johnson is the president of the Graduate Student Council and a 1995 graduate of N.C. A&T. He says the teams’ success this year have brought back the “old school HBCU feeling.”
“Aggie Pride is back to a state of being and not just something we say,” he added.
In spite of being under the radar for the majority of the season, the women’s team has had a successful year. The Lady Aggies entered the MEAC tournament as the No. 2 seed with a conference record of 13-3 and an overall record of 20-6.
The men’s team entered the MEAC tournament as the No. 7 seed and with a losing record of 15-16. In their first game of the tournament, the Aggies caught fire against the FAMU Rattlers and burned through arch rival, NCCU, Delaware State and Morgan State to win the team’s first MEAC Championship since 1995. The conference championship won the Aggies an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament where they kept up their winning ways versus the Liberty University Flames in a First Four contest that earned the university and Coach Cy Alexander’s first NCAA tournament win.
Excitement about the Aggies’ MEAC Championship and NCAA appearance spilled over into the city of Greensboro and all across the globe with messages of support pouring in via university-level Facebook and Twitter from Aggie alums, rival schools and friends of the university.
Alumni chapters from places like St. Louis, Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, northern Delaware, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and other areas did their part to support the teams by having watch parties.
“This is what Aggie Pride is all about,” biology major Jasmine Whitaker said. “It’s great to have a school you can root for and to have other people root for. Those who didn’t jump on the bandwagon – this was your loss.”
This was the first season for both head coaches, Tarrell Robinson and Alexander. With players like MEAC Rookie of the Year Eboni Ross and junior Amber Calvin returning for the women and freshman Bruce Bowen and juniors Lamont Middleton and Jeremy Underwood returning for the men, Aggie fans are already looking forward to next year.
“I hope the energy level goes even higher,” Johnson said.