Norfolk, Va. (NSUSpartans.com) – Completing a three-game sweep against the Eagles, Norfolk State fended off a late push on Wednesday to defeat North Carolina Central 58-52 in the MEAC Quarterfinals. Fresh off earning All-MEAC second team and All-Defensive Team honors, Mahoganie Williams led the Spartans on both ends of the floor, posting 12 points, six rebounds, and five blocks.
While the Spartans clamped down defensively from the get-go, the offense needed some time to warm up. With the rest of the lineup struggling from the field, Williams kept NSU from falling behind by scoring the team's first five points. She hit a fadeaway mid-range jumper to end the first quarter, giving NSU a 15-12 lead.
Vickers subbed Crystal White in for the second quarter, a player who has seen firsthand what it takes to succeed in the MEAC Tournament. White played for North Carolina A&T last season, beating Howard 59-57 in the championship game.
White wasted no time making her impact on Wednesday, immediately knocking down a 3-pointer and finishing a layup through contact. She'd hit two more threes a few minutes later, giving her 11 of the Spartans' 17 points in the second quarter.
White's deep barrage, as well as a diligent quarter on the defensive end, helped NSU take a 16-point lead into halftime. The Spartans held N.C. Central to 16 points on 7-of-26 (26.9%) shooting in the first half.
Williams continued to dominate the paint in the second half, making a couple of layups and altering multiple Eagles shots. Camille Downs knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to keep N.C. Central at a safe distance on the scoreboard. Downs finished the day with 9 points from three 3-pointers, seven rebounds, one steal, and a block.
The Spartans led by 11 going into the fourth quarter, and buckets by Deja Francis and Williams, followed by an Armani Franklin and-one quickly increased the margin to 18. Nia Ford hit a 3-pointer for the Eagles, but Franklin converted a floater in the lane to put NSU ahead by 17 with just over two minutes to play.
N.C. Central wouldn't go down without a fight, though. The Eagles ended the day on an 11-0 run in the final two minutes, softening NSU's margin of victory to single digits.
Although the Spartans and Eagles remained neck-in-neck across the box score, winning the rebounding battle 44-34 may have made the difference on Wednesday. NSU pulled in 15 offensive boards, with Spartans guard Danaijah Williams chasing down three of them.
Upon advancing to the MEAC Semifinals, the Spartans will play on Friday at 2 p.m. against the winner of Thursday's Morgan State and South Carolina State matchup. The semifinal game will take place at the Norfolk Scope.