N.C. A&T Women’s Basketball Takes MEAC Title

N.C. A&T Women’s Basketball Takes MEAC Title; Prepares for NCAA

Aprill McRae and Christina Carter decided to transfer from Virginia Commonwealth University because they believed head coach Tarrell Robinson’s vision for winning a championship at North Carolina A&T State University. Dana Brown had the same aspirations when she transferred from UNC Wilmington.

Courtney Powell decided to play one more season of college basketball as a graduate transfer for the same reason. Perhaps the most inspiring story comes from fifth-year guard Adriana Nazario’s decision to play one more year – despite having graduated and despite having knee problems – in an effort to give this whole winning a championship thing one more try. Their decisions paid off.

The N.C. A&T Women’s Basketball team won the 2016 MEAC Basketball Tournament Championship with a 65-46 win over Coppin State at the Norfolk Scope Arena on March 12. It was the Aggies third MEAC title and their first in seven years. The Aggies (19-11) will also be making their third National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament appearance. An opponent and a site will be announced for the Aggies on Monday night. The school will hold a Selection Show Party for the team at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at the Academic Classroom Building, room 101.

“Those ladies believed in me and in my coaching staff. They believed in the program, and I can’t thank them enough,” said N.C. A&T Head Coach Tarrell Robinson who won his first conference title in his fourth year as a head coach. “The decisions they made put us in this position.”

McRae was named Most Outstanding Player (MOP) of the tournament and she and teammate Dana Brown made the all-tournament team. McRae joins Nisha Watson and Amber Bland as Aggies who have won MOP at the MEAC tournament.

“Words can’t explain it for me because we’ve put in so much work to get this,” said McRae. “It’s not like we came to the tournament and just tried to turn it on. We’ve had to get up early in the morning a lot this season to practice because we have so many (graduate) students. It’s not like we can practice in the evening. People can’t see how much sacrificing we’ve done to get here.”

Carter led the Aggies with 14 points, four assists and four rebounds. Brown and sophomore Kala Green had 12 points a piece. McRae had nine points and finished the tournament with a combined 40 point and 20 rebounds over three games. But the shot of the game belonged to a player who had played a total of 23 minutes in her previous five games. Coppin State was in the midst of a 6-0 run as Keena Samuels netted a 3-pointer to pull the Eagles to within three, 44-41, with 2:22 to play in the third quarter. Michelle Fitzgerald had the Aggies response as she calmly took a pass from Nazario at the top of the key, set her feet and swished what was only her fourth 3-pointer of the season.

“I thought that shot really ignited us,” said Robinson.

The Aggies closed out the quarter with a 50-41 lead. The Eagles never got any closer than nine in the fourth quarter. Carter’s 3-pointer with 2:45 remaining in the game ignited the chants of Aggie Pride from the Aggie faithful as N.C. A&T took a 62-46 lead.

The Aggies are headed to the tournament after overcoming three straight losses in the MEAC tournament semifinal. Robinson said Saturday’s championship game was the first he has watched in three years because he could not stomach to watch the championship game after his Aggies were eliminated. He will now be watching his new favorite show.

“I’ll be anticipating Selection Monday (for the NCAA Tournament),” Robinson, the tournament’s Outstanding Coach, said. “There was a Selection Sunday for the WNIT, but we don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

But he reminded everyone that none of this was possible without the players’ decisions.

“Our players made it happen today,” said Robinson. “It was about the players. It was not about me.”