PRINCESS ANNE, Maryland — The University of Maryland Eastern Shore led Monday’s matchup with North Carolina A&T State (6-10, 3-0) for more than 30 minutes. But it wasn’t long enough.
In a game which featured just eight lead changes, the Aggies made three baskets from behind the arc in the final four minutes to escape the William P. Hytche Center with a 51-49 spoiling a milestone night for senior point guard Ciani Byrom (Winston-Salem, North Carolina).
“I feel disappointed we didn’t take advantage of our opportunity,” Hawks coach Fred Batchelor said after the win. “I felt it was a great opportunity, but at the same time I thought our kids fought. They played hard. They played together and I’m proud of them.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m more disappointed for the players. I thought they gave everything they had and I know this would have been something that they would have been really excited to get.”
The Aggies took their first lead of the second half, 42-41, with 4:22 left in the game when Lilly Charme hit a three. From there the two squads traded blows. The Hawks held their final lead 47-45 with 2:38 to go when senior Keyera Eaton (Winston-Salem, North Carolina) drained a 3-pointer.
But A&T’s C’coriea Foy answered with one of her own to make it 48-47 Aggies. After a Hwaks turnover, Foy added another bucket to push the lead to three. A putback by Dominique Walker (Bel Air, Maryland) brought the Hawks within one again, but a pair of turnovers in the final 23 seconds sunk the Shore.
The Hawks (8-9, 3-1 MEAC) held the lead at the half despite shooting just 5-of-29 (17 percent) in the first two quarters. They forced 21 Aggies turnovers and outrebounded the visitors 43-42 despite a major size disparity.
Byrom finished the night with 13 points on 4 of-16 shooting, five rebounds two assists, two steals and an uncharacteristic seven turnovers scored her 1000th career point in the fourth quarter. She reached the mark in just 77 games played because of injuries.
Her jumper with 4:05 left, was followed by a free throw for the and-one, which gave the Hawks a fleeting 44-42 lead.
She is the ninth player in program history to reach the 1000-point plateau and with at least 13 games remaining this season she has time to move her way up the career scoring ranks. Next in front of her are Peggy Edwards (1989-93) in eighth with 1,003 points and Kristi Sheldon (1995-99) in seventh place with 1,028. Current Hawks assistant coach Casey Morton (2007-11) waits at No. 4 on the list with 1,230.
“I’m happy for her,” Batchelor said. “I think that is an elite group to be able to accomplish that here and to do it despite the amount of time that she lost to injury — pretty much a whole year — goes to show you how dominant a player she really is. I’m just looking forward to her doing some more things this year that are going to make people recognize her for the talent that she is.”
It was a big night for the teams four seniors overall. Ra’Jean Martin (Jacksonville, Florida) finished with 12 points, six rebounds and assist and a steal. Eaton put up 13 points, four boards, three assists and three steals. Walker pulled down seven rebounds to go with five points and three steals.
Next up for the Hawks is a game at Florida A&M on Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. followed by a 2 p.m. matchup on Monday Jan. 21. — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — at Bethune-Cookman.
“We just didn’t take advantage of the opportunity having a team like that down at home and down a kid or two,” Bachelor said. “We have to get it back in Florida. We have to find a way to get it back on track. We talk about what it takes to be successful in this league. We feel wining at home is one and at least winning half your games on the road is two.
“I was just explaining to them that we have to go and get two to make up for this one and it puts us right where we want to be.”