Title Hopes Fade with Defeat

It was only fitting that a conference game with first-place implications came down to the wire. Unfortunately for the Lady Rattlers, their ideal ending never took shape.

During the final moments of regulation, the Florida A&M women’s basketball team (19-7, 12-2 MEAC) fell 46-43 to the Hampton Lady Pirates (21-4, 13-1 MEAC) Saturday afternoon in the Al Lawson Center.

With eight seconds remaining in the game, head coach LeDawn Gibson said she told her team to remain focused and to shoot with confidence. With five proven shooters on the court, the Lady Rattlers’ chance to clinch first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament ended dramatically. Tameka McKelton, FAMU’s all-time three-point shooter, took the final shot with two seconds remaining in regulation.

“We just ended up not making it,” Gibson said. “We didn’t have a great shooting night, which didn’t help us at all, but we are not going to make excuses. We are going back to the drawing board; we have two games that we have to win, and it is not over.”

The Lady Pirates now sit atop the MEAC next to the Howard Bison (22-7, 14-2 MEAC), while the Lady Rattlers occupy third place with two games remaining in the season.

During the low-scoring contest, neither team was able to maintain a lead for long, as there were 12 ties and 11 lead changes in all. Despite entering halftime with a 24-21 advantage, the Lady Rattlers were unable to remain on top during the second half to seal the victory.

“It was a tough loss,” said Antonia Bennett, FAMU’s leading scorer. “But we have to work hard and get in the gym, be focused and know what we are going up against when we get to the MEAC tournament.”

The Lady Rattlers shot just 32.1 percent (9-of-28) from the field during the first half and 23.8 percent (15-of-63) on the game. The Lady Pirates held Bennett to eight points and three assists, while Kimberly Sparkman posted a lowly five points and two assists. Sophomore Jasmine Grice was the only Lady Ratter in double figures, as she scored 13 points.

Qiana Donald and Jamie Foreman each secured seven points on the game.

In one of the most anticipated matchups of the season, the Lady Pirates’ defense troubled the Lady Rattlers the entire game, as the home team was unable to maintain any offensive rhythm.

“They were also pushing me out,” Sparkman said. “It was kind of hard to get the ball back up.”

Although the Lady Rattlers may not be in first place, their attitudes have not changed about the upcoming MEAC tournament, which a week away. The tournament begins March 5.

“I still feel good about our chances,” Bennett said. “We just know how much harder we have to work and how much more we want it.”

The Lady Rattlers will return to action today at 5:30 p.m. in the Al Lawson Center, as they will face Norfolk State.