By Markaysha Bryant
NORFOLK, VA — Norfolk State University’s men’s basketball team won the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) Championship over Coppin State 72-57 on March 12 at the Norfolk Scope Arena.
The intense game featured four lead changes as the Spartans battled for the chance to claim back-to-back MEAC titles.
Senior guard Joe Bryant Jr., who was crowned as MEAC’s player of the year, scored 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting, including a 5-for-9 effort from the 3-point line. Bryant’s performance, combined with the efforts of redshirt senior Jalen Hawkins, who had 17 points on a 5-for-9 effort from the floor, led the team to victory.
As the clock ran down, Norfolk State took final possession of the ball, causing the crowd to erupt with cheers of joy.
“Whoever plays the hardest for 40 minutes will win the game, and we played hard… when the clock hit zero, my eyes instantly lit up; it feels good to bring the championship back to my hometown,” said senior guard Joe Bryant Jr.
With a final score of 72-57, the men’s Spartans made history and earned their first MEAC title for both the regular season and the conference, ultimately granting the team an automatic qualification for the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament.
This was the second-consecutive year that the men’s basketball team won the MEAC Tournament. The pair of conference title victories brought an end to a ten-year championship drought that lasted since their MEAC championship win in 2012.
“They did something that we didn’t do; they won both the regular season and the championship; I am so proud. They deserve it,” said former guard Jamel Fuentes, a part of the team who won the first MEAC title for Norfolk State University.