Hampton Uses Defensive Formula to Shut Down Howard and Win Tourney Title

Hampton University employed the same formula that it has used throughout the tournament: Keeping the game close through the first half and then parlaying the scoring of its three veterans, Melanie Warner, Quanneisha Perry and Jericka Jenkins alomng with some stifling second half defense to pull away from its opponents. The Lady Pirates continued that same formula to defeat Howard University, 61-42 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference women's tournament championship at the Joel Coliseum.

"It is interesting that these two teams are 1-2 in the conference in scoring
defense," said Hampton head Coach David Six, in his second year at the helm. "In the first half, we were feeling each other out. But in the second half, we got things going. We knew that if we did not turn the ball over and rebound well, we would win the game. We have been consistent in those areas all season."

Hampton (25-6) received an automatic bid.

The first half was a grind it out affair with neither team being able to generate much offense. Both teams shot under 30 percent, but the seasoned Lady Pirates, who won their second straight tournament title, did just enough to maintain a 21-16 advantage at the half.

Perry, the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year and a first team All-MEAC selection, struggled early but came on down the stretch to give her team a push.

She scored six points and grabbed six rebounds while Warner added four and reserve Keiara Avant tallied five.

Hampton came out and imposed its will on the young Howard team, which is dominated by sophomores and who were playing in their first tournament championship.

"I think Hampton's experience was definitely a factor, especially when you have
players like Warner, Jenkins and Perry," said Howard Coach Niki Geckeler, in her first tournament championship as a head coach. "But that was not the overriding factor. We just lost our legs. We played four games to get here. We are very young and I am excited about the future."

The Lady Pirates forced the Lady Bison into bad shots and turnovers and made them pay at the other end with trips with timely baskets and trips to the foul line, where they converted on 16 of 20. Warner, Jenkins and Perry took turns as they finished with 13 each.

"We knew that we had to play defense in order to win the championship," said Perry, named the tournament MVP. "We knew that if we continued to play hard and play great defense we would be successful."

Howard (16-18) began to press on offense and in the process, missed a number of point blank shots. The team-leading scorer and MEAC Player of the Year, Saadia Doyle, had problems getting touches and it proved to be a problem for the Lady Bison. And their point guard, Cheyenne Curley Payne, who was had an outstanding
tournament before this game, was held scoreless.

"Their defense was really sagging and helping out a lot," said Doyle, who finished with a game-high 16 points and seven rebounds. "It made it hard to penetrate and we did not knock down the shots that we hot earlier in the tournament."

Tamoria Holmes finished with 12 for Howard in a losing while Curley Payne pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds.

In addition to the contribution of the Big Three for Hampton, Avant aided the cause with 9 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

This is the second straight trip to the NCAAs for Coach Six and his Lady Pirates. He says that he is looking forward to the experience.

"Our performance in the NCAAs last year left a bad taste in our mouths," said Six. "We wanted an opportunity to get back there and atone ourselves. We do not just want to be there; we want to win. I think we are good enough to win."

Six was named the Tournament Outstanding Coach while Perry, Jenkins, Shawntae Payne (Coppin State), Doyle and Curley Payne were named to the all-tournament team. Perry was named tournament MVP.