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Pirates Win The MEAC Tournament

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  • Pirates Win The MEAC Tournament

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    NORFOLK, Va. – In winning the MEAC Tournament title last season, the Pirates surprised quite a few people.

    No such surprise this season, but the result was much the same. Hampton, the top seed and regular season champion, won its second straight MEAC Tournament crown Saturday afternoon with an 81-69 win over South Carolina State at Norfolk Scope Arena.

    The Pirates also locked up the conference's automatic NCAA Tournament bid.

    It was Hampton's sixth MEAC Tournament crown overall and third under head coach Edward Joyner, Jr. This also marked the first time the Pirates won back-to-back tournament titles since 2001-02.

    "It's rare that I'm kind of lost for words," Joyner said, "but to do what they did, to put the university and the alumni in this situation… hats off to the guys."

    Brian Darden led four Pirates in double figures with 22 points, hitting four 3-pointers for the second straight game and going 8-for-8 from the free throw line. Reginald Johnson, Jr. – who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player – added 21 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.

    Jervon Pressley came off the bench to score 14 points (going 6-for-6 from the free throw line) and grab a team-high nine boards, and Quinton Chievous – who was named to the All-Tournament Team – had 13 points and seven rebounds.

    "(Pressley) just took over in the end," Chievous said. "He was the key to the game. He was a straight monster today."

    The Pirates (21-10) shot just over 46 percent from the floor – including a 50 percent clip in the first half – and made nearly 82 percent of its free throws (27-33). Hampton also led on the glass (39-28) and second-chance points (10-7).

    Though Hampton jumped out to an early lead, S.C. State – likely riding a wave of momentum following its semifinal win over Norfolk State on Friday – used an 11-2 run to take a 26-19 lead at the 8:47 mark after Eric Eaves drained a jumper.

    Hampton then scored 15 of the next 22 points, taking a 34-33 lead after a pair of Lawrence Cooks free throws with 1:48 left in the half. But a 6-2 Bulldogs spurt gave them a 39-36 lead after a Luka Radovic layup with 14 seconds left.

    Darden hit a three with 10 seconds left to send the game into a 39-39 halftime deadlock.

    Johnson had 11 points at the break, while Darden had 10.

    "One thing that helped us today, and really this season, is that we won it last year," Johnson said. "We got that taste in our mouths and we didn't want any other taste, so we couldn't imagine leaving here not the champion."

    The Bulldogs led by as many as nine on two separate occasions early in the second half, before Hampton went on a 13-2 run – taking a 57-55 lead on a Johnson jumper with 9:40 to play. Over that span, the game featured five ties and three lead changes.

    In fact, Darryl Palmer tied the game at 65-65 with an alley-oop dunk with 5:25 remaining. But Dionte Adams hit two free throws 31 seconds later to give Hampton back the lead, 67-65, before Tashombe Riley hit a jumper with 4:06 left to tie the game at 67-67.

    But the Bulldogs only managed one field goal after that, and the Pirates ended the game on a 14-2 run. Chievous broke the deadlock with a layup, and the Pirates hit each of their last six free throws to ice the game and the championship.

    S.C. State shot just over 45 percent from the floor for the game, but only hit four of its 21 3-pointers and nine of its 14 free throws.

    Eaves scored a game-high 25 points to lead the fifth-seeded Bulldogs (19-14).

    The Pirates will learn their NCAA Tournament destination on Sunday, when the bracket is unveiled live on CBS at 6 p.m. EST. A viewing party is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the student center ballroom; it will be free and open to the public.

    "Man, don't ask me (about seeding)," Joyner said. "Wherever they send us, we'll go. If you've got someone I can call, outside of Jesus, I'll call them."