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Friday, March 24, 2023

Norfolk State Wins 2023 MEAC Women’s Basketball Championship

NORFOLK, Va., March 11, 2023 – Niya Fields scored eight of her 11 points from the free throw line to help Norfolk State hold off Howard 56-52 and capture the 2023 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Basketball Tournament championship at the Scope Arena on Saturday. 

Courtesy Norfolk State/MEAC

It was Norfolk State’s first title since 2002 and second overall.

The Spartans earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship and will learn their fate during Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show (8 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Norfolk State, the regular-season champion, and the Bison (16-14), the reigning 2022 champions, were in a classic battle from the tip. Howard started fast, as a junior guard and MEAC Player of the Year Destiny Howell poured in 18 first-half points on 3-point bombs.

But the Spartans, who rely on defense and rebounding, clawed their way back from a 9-point deficit to narrow the score to 30-29 at intermission.

Norfolk State made some adjustments defensively against Howell and limited her to zero points during the third quarter. Fields and teammate Makoya Diawara (11 points, nine rebounds) combined to give the Spartans a cushion with an 11-0 run that opened their biggest lead at 10 with 8:02 remaining in the fourth quarter.

It appeared to be enough to close out the game as the Bison failed to score for long periods.

But before the Spartans could celebrate, Howell was not having it. Howell, who finished with a tournament-high of 30 points, twice answered with long-range bombs with players all over her to get within three with less than a minute remaining.

But the determined Spartans got a clutch free throw from Fields to claim victory.

“We knew it was going to be a tough battle,” Norfolk State head coach Larry Vickers, the MEAC Coach of the Year, said. “We were able to make some adjustments on Howell in the second half and it worked until she hit those shots. Niya hit those free throws and they proved to be big.  I am just so happy for this group. They worked hard for this and were determined to win this championship.”

Added Howard head coach Ty Grace, “I am so proud of this team. We had challenges all season, but we never quit and stayed the course. We have created a winning culture here at Howard and that is what I am most proud of.”

This was the Bison’s third straight MEAC final appearance.

Graduate guard Aziah Hudson contributed 10 for Howard, while senior forward Krislyn Marsh recorded a career-high 12 rebounds, and junior guard Kaniyah Harris rallied seven rebounds and six assists in a losing cause.

Fields and Diawaea each scored 11 points, and Deja Francis had six points and five assists. Camille Downs contributed six points and seven rebounds.

Outstanding Performer: Kierra Wheeler, Norfolk State

Outstanding Coach: Larry Vickers, Norfolk State

All-Tournament Team

Kaniyah Harris, Howard

Destiny Howell, Howard

Camille Downs, Norfolk State

Kierra Wheeler, Norfolk State

Morgan Callahan, North Carolina Central

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