NORFOLK, Va. (AP/WAVY) — Hampton University hoped to leave the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with a bang, but they fell just four minutes short of completing that goal. North Carolina Central outscored the Pirates 13-5 over the final four minutes, and took a second straight MEAC Tournament championship with a 71-63 win.
Pablo Rivas had 22 points to lead the Eagles (19-15).
Jordan Perkins added 13 points and nine assists and John Guerra scored 12 for NCCU, who earned the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in five years.
Malique Trent-Street scored 15 points to lead the Pirates (19-15), who were looking to exit the MEAC with their third MEAC title in five years. Akim Mitchell and Greg Heckstall each added 11 points.
A 3-pointer by Kalin Fisher pulled Hampton even at 58-all with 4:24 to play, but the Pirates didn’t score again until Trent-Street’s layup with 18 seconds to go. Hampton will now compete in the Big South Conference, starting next season.
N.C. Central: The Eagles have made winning a habit in recent years, and did so this year with two freshmen — Reggie Gardner Jr. (11.0 ppg) and Jordan Perkins (8.3 ppg, 5.4 apg) — figuring prominently in the backcourt. They combined with veterans Raasean Davis, Rivas and Guerra to make NCCU a dangerous team to take lightly in the postseason.
Hampton: The Pirates were sloppy with the ball in the closing minutes, ruining their chances at a victory in front of a partisan and pro-Hampton crowd. The Pirates also got little help from their bench, which was outscored 28-9 by the NCCU reserves.
N.C. Central will head to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in five years.
The Pirates’ loss leaves them hoping for an opportunity to continue playing in the NIT or a lesser tournament.