NORFOLK, Va. – Adrian Powell scored 14 points, including two critical free throws with 23.4 seconds to play, and then blocked a potential tying 3-pointer in the final seconds Saturday as North Carolina A&T beat Morgan State 57-54 to win its first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament title since 1995.
Lamont Middleton added 13 points, all in the second half, as the seventh-seeded Aggies (19-16) came through with a clutch performance one day after clinching their first winning season in 15 years.
DeWayne Jackson led Morgan State (17-15) with 20 points, but had his 3-point try swatted away by Powell with a few seconds to play, and then missed a contested try again at the buzzer, sending the cheerleeaders and some fans from North Carolina A&T streaming onto the court in a brief celebration.
The loss was the first in nine games for Morgan State, which missed 12 of 20 free throws.
The game was close throughout the second half, and an 8-3 run by the Aggies gave them a 51-45 lead with 6:44 to play. Austin Witter, who scored 11, banked in a shot from just inside the 3-point line to start the run and finished it with a free throw, giving the Aggies their biggest lead of the half.
Justin Black's second field goal of the game pulled the Bears within four, but he was fouled and failed to convert the three-point play. When the Bears' Anthony Hubbard was fouled after a turnover by the Aggies, he missed both free throws, part of the Bears' 6-for-14 performance at the line in the half.
Middleton's 17-footer boosted the Aggies' lead back to six before two free throws by Jackson and Hubbard's driving basket pulled Morgan State back to 53-51 with just 3:59 remaining.
Middleton's missed free throw started a string of failed chances for both teams, and when the Aggies' Bruce Beckford broke the scoring drought with an inside basket for a 55-51 lead with 1:43 to go.
Blake Bozeman, the son of Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman, quickly answered with a 3-pointer, his only field goal of the game, to make it a one-point game again, setting up the finish.
Both teams took turns having the upper hand in the first half, with the Aggies getting eight points from Powell in a 15-4 run that gave them a 21-17 lead, and the Bears closing the half on 9-4 burst.
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