The Norfolk State Spartans defeated the Rattler basketball team 58-46 in the semi-finals of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament at Joel Coliseum on Friday night.
Despite many doubts, the Rattlers performed well during the tournament even though they were ousted in game three.
“The strategy I employed actually worked in the MEAC,” head coach Clemon Johnson said. “We came together as a team and we proved we could win and go far this season.”
The Rattlers’ performance lacked intensity during the first half, which allowed the Spartans to dominate and extend their lead. Forward Amin Stevens was the game’s leading scorer with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-3 from the three-point arc. He also grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double. Stevens was the only Rattler to score in double figures, as eight other Rattlers were able to score.
As a team, the Rattlers committed 19 turnovers.
Forward Yannick Crowder blocked five shots from Kyle O’Quinn, MEAC Player of the Year, who scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting to lead the Spartans. Crowder dedicated his game to preventing O’Quinn from taking over the game, a plan that was successful. The pressure from Crowder forced him to facilitate the ball, as there was no breathing room in the paint.
“I’m disappointed we lost, but I cannot be more proud of my team for making it all the way to the semi-finals,” Yannick Crowder said.
FAMU (10-23), the tournament’s eleventh seed, was attempting to turn the MEAC tournament around having already pulled upsets against Delaware State and Coppin State. The Rattlers had a chance for a third upset when they took a 29-28 lead with 15 minutes remaining, But the Spartans scored on big plays to regain the lead.
“We were underrated, we proved people wrong and we didn’t allow negative energy to affect our season,” Reggie Lewis said. “We have a great team and we plan to win the MEAC next year.”
The season ended much different than it began. With a new coach and no respect in the MEAC, the Rattlers stumbled out of the gate. But, over the last week, all of that was erased as the Rattlers grew as a team and showed they were a conference contender.
“People didn’t have much faith in me or this team, but I’m very proud of them and I’m excited for next season,” Johnson said. “Also I’m hoping we can get more support from the student body in Al Lawson. We are recruiting great individuals for next year and looking forward to a successful season. We gave it our all in the semi-finals but we just couldn’t get the win, but I’m positive we will win next year.”