Norfolk, Va. (Release via NSU Athletics) – Camille Downs may have won MEAC Defensive Player of the Year last week, but an offensive play on Friday afternoon will go down as one of the most memorable moments in NSU basketball history. Downs knocked down a turnaround jumper as the final buzzer sounded in Norfolk Scope Arena, giving the Spartans a 53-51 victory over Morgan State in the MEAC Semifinals.
In addition to the heroic shot, Downs still brought the notorious defensive intensity that she’s known for as well. She finished the day with 14 points, six rebounds, and four steals. Camille’s fellow First Team All-MEAC honoree Deja Francis led the Spartans with 19 points, while Makoye Diawara enjoyed a career day with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Never count the Spartans out, but the team got off to a rough start on Friday, allowing 11 points by the Bears before the Spartans got on the board. Charlene Shepherd helped MSU gain the early edge, making a few mid-range jumpers.
It looked like the Spartans would have to spend much of the afternoon clawing their way back into the game, but instead they stormed up the scoreboard rapidly. Danaijah Williams got to the line to end the scoring draught, before Deja Francis went on a scoring tear. Francis dropped seven points in the final four minutes of the quarter, bringing the Spartans within one going into the second period.
Diawara banked in a 3-pointer early in the second quarter to give the Spartans a lead, and made two more layups before halftime, including an and-one that got the NSU bench on its feet. Despite trailing 11-0 to begin the game, the Spartans went into the second half with a 29-26 edge.
The third quarter, like the entire day, saw both teams exchanged leads routinely. Downs, who was held to three points in the first half, got things going offensively in the third period, earning multiple trips to the free throw line.
Back-to-back baskets from Francis pushed the Spartans’ lead to six and forced an MSU timeout, but the Bears stormed back to tie things up minutes later. The teams went to the fourth quarter even at 41, their entire seasons at stake.
MSU drew first blood in the final period, but Diawara continued her magnificent afternoon with a timely layup in response. She scored again soon after, but MSU’s Jayla Atmore hit a jumper to even the score again.
The Spartans tightened up defensively throughout the fourth quarter, shutting down Shepherd, the Bears’ leading scorer this season. Shepherd shined with 13 points in the first half, but the Spartans stopped her from scoring a single basket in the second.
Francis made two free throws in the final minute to temporarily surge NSU ahead, but Morgan State’s Adia Brisker made a tough floater to tie the score at 51. With 30 seconds on the clock, NSU head coach Larry Vickers called timeout to draw up the team’s last shot play.
Niya Fields freed up some space with a step-back, but her 3-pointer bounced off the right side of the rim. Downs swept in to corral the offensive board, immediately hoisting a turnaround fadeaway before the buzzer sounded.
The entire NSU team mobbed Downs as soon as the shot went through the net, the Spartans spot in the final secured.
The shot advanced Norfolk State to the MEAC Championship game for the first time since 2019. The Spartans will face top-seeded Howard in the ultimate matchup, with a chance for the program’s first MEAC Tournament Championship since 2002 and an ensuing automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The title game will take place at the Norfolk Scope at 3:30 p.m.