GREENSBORO, N.C.— The University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s women’s basketball team entered Monday’s matchup at Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference No. 1 North Carolina A&T State with a seven-game winning streak. The Aggies had won 17 straight against MEAC opponents dating back to last season.
When the dust settled, it was the Hawks (14-11, 10-2 MEAC) who saw their streak come to an end. Despite fighting their way back from a 14-point first-half deficit to take a third-quarter lead, they fell 70-58 to the defending MEAC Champions. Four Hawks fouled out of the game and the Aggies shot 24-of-33 from the line in the game, while The Shore attempted just 16 free throws.
“I thought the initial start made it tough for us and the foul trouble,” Hawks coach Fred Batchelor said. “You are sitting with your starters on the bench with four fouls, you are playing in foul trouble the whole third quarter going into the fourth and I just didn’t think we really didn’t well enough to win tonight.
“At the end of the day, you have to play better than that.”
The Hawks trailed 36-22 at the half, but fought their way back to take a 41-40 lead with 1:19 to go in the third quarter, when Ciani Byrom (Winston-Salem, North Carolina) scored on acrobatic layup in transition after grabbing a layup and going coast-to-coast.
“I just enjoy watching her play,” Batchelor said. “I was really a fan at that moment more than anything. The bucket was big, but the play was just great to watch. I tell these kids that we need to enjoy this experience. It may not go the way we want it to go, but we have to take this and help make us better and look forward to the next opportunity to play against a championship level team.”
The Aggies answered, but then Byrom drove and dished to freshman Taylor Clayborne (Upper Marlboro, Maryland) for a 43-42 lead. But it was short lived as A&T finished the quarter with a 3-pointer and a 46-43 lead.
“After the start, even though we made that run and put ourselves in position, it takes a lot out of you. That’s why it’s always good to be up 14 because even if let them come back it takes energy. Those kids that were on the floor, were on the floor the whole third quarter. So fatigue plays a factor when you have mental breakdowns and fatigue turnovers.”
The Aggies went on a 12-2 run to start the fourth quarter and really never looked back.
Byrom led the Hawks with 21 points, five rebounds, six assists and four steals. Classmate Ra’Jean Martin (Jacksonville, Florida) added 18 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal. Clayborne chipped in eight points, four rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals off the bench.
Eastern Shore had just four games remaining on its regular season schedule. The Hawks return home to face Coppin State in a Homecoming matchup on Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. Then they travel to Delaware state on Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. They host Morgan State on March 4 at 5:30 p.m. finish out the regular season with a home matchup with the Hornets on March 7 at 5:30 p.m.
If things go the way Batchelor hopes, the Hawks will see the Aggies again on the final day of the MEAC tournament in March.
“I don’t know (if the team want’s another shot at A&T), but I do,” Batchelor said. “They say a team is a reflection of the characteristics of the head coach, so I’m hoping they feel the same way. I’m looking forward to it.”
For more information on Eastern Shore Athletics visit http://www.easternshorehawks.com/.