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Norfolk State 78, Maryland-Eastern Shore 74

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Norfolk State’s bid for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament title and potential NCAA Tournament berth will continue after the Spartans survived a frantic upset bid by the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore on Monday night.

Norfolk State prevailed in the final seconds, 78-74, in the first round of the conference tournament in Norfolk, Va.

Guard Pendarvis Williams had 22 points, seven rebounds and three steals for the Spartans, who handed the Hawks their sixth loss in the last eight games to close out UMES’ dismal season at 6-24 overall and 4-13 in conference play.

Norfolk State will now advance to Thursday’s MEAC

tournament quarterfinals. The Spartans will play an 8 p.m. game against the winner of Monday’s late game between No. 5 seed Savannah State and No. 12 South Carolina State. Norfolk State is 0-1 against South Carolina State, while the Spartans won their only meeting against Savannah State on Jan. 27 in Savannah, Ga., 56-49.

Norfolk, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, jumped on top of No. 13 UMES early in the first half as the Spartans (18-13, 12-5) climbed ahead 43-26 at halftime.

But UMES, trailing by as many as 21 points in the second half, stormed back and tied the game at 72-72 with 2:19 remaining on a pair of free throws by guard Hakeem Baxter. The two teams traded buckets to knot it

at 74-74 with under a minute to play. Then forward RaShid Gaston hit one of two free throws on Norfolk State’s next possession to put the Spartans back ahead, 75-74.

UMES guard Devon Walker had the ball stolen with 43 seconds left on a possession that could have given the Hawks the lead.

Williams was fouled, and he drilled two free throws with six seconds left to give Norfolk State a 77-74 lead. Baxter then turned the ball over on UMES’ final possession to seal the win for Norfolk State.

Guard Malcolm Hawkins, fresh off his All-MEAC second-team selection Monday afternoon, and Gaston each finished with 17 points for the Spartans, who also placed two other seniors on the All-Conference squad: Williams and center Brandon Goode. Goode tallied 12 points and

two blocks in the win, and Gaston led the team with eight rebounds.

UMES, meanwhile, had to swallow a three-game season sweep at the hands of Norfolk State, which won its seventh in a row in the series against the Hawks. UMES was led by Baxter’s 21 points, and the Hawks also got 16 points from Walker. Guards Mark Blackmon added 13 points, while

forward Troy Snyder — the Hawks’ leading scorer all season – finished his UMES career with just 11 points, and he fouled out.

UMES has now been eliminated in the opening round of the MEAC tournament three straight years. The Hawks will lose four seniors off this year’s team: guard Louis Bell, forwards Snyder and Pina Guillaume and center Francis Ezeiru.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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