It ended with North Carolina A&T’s Deja Winters making a contested three-pointer with three seconds remaining, giving the Aggies a shocking 59-57 victory.
After a desperation three-pointer was off at the buzzer, the Bison rushed to console Warren as the sophomore out of Oxon Hill High collapsed in tears. A victory would have put Howard in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001.
“She carries the weight of this team all the time. As you saw this whole game, she was making plays the entire game, but for her all she felt were those missed free throws at the end — and I felt it for her,” Howard Coach Ty Grace said. “But it’s not her fault. We had other opportunities where we could’ve closed the game out. . . . I will never tell a kid that it was one play that lost the game, because it’s never one play.”
Howard (15-4) jumped to a 19-10 lead heading into the second quarter, thanks in large part to consecutive three-pointers by Jayla Thornton, the MEAC’s all-time three-point leader. The Howard offense came to a halt in the second quarter, though: The Aggies held the Bison to eight points on 3-for-14 shooting as they grabbed a 31-27 halftime edge.
But since it knocked off La Salle in December after trailing by 23 points, Howard had grown accustomed to flipping the switch. It responded with a strong third quarter to leave the score tied at 44 with 10 minutes left.
“They keep pressure on you every possession with their 2-2-1 or 1-2-2 [defense] and speed you up and make you make bad decisions and take quick shots and throw off your rhythm where you can’t even execute offensively,” North Carolina A&T Coach Tarrell Robinson said.
Jones-Pack had 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting and six rebounds for North Carolina A&T (14-2). She helped keep the Aggies within arm’s reach as Howard threatened to break the game open early in the fourth.
Howard held down Winters, the Aggies’ leading scorer, for most of the game; she finished with 15 points on 5-for-14 shooting. But she delivered in the final seconds, making the go-ahead three-pointer and another that had brought her team within one.
Warren had a game-high 21 points and added six assists for Howard. Thornton added 12 points on four three-pointers. Anzhane’ Hutton had nine points and 14 rebounds.
With the loss, Howard will have to wait at least another year to play in the NCAA tournament. But following a successful regular season that included three wins against Atlantic 10 foes, the Bison will hope to land an invitation to the WNIT.
In non-pandemic times, every league would be guaranteed one spot in the 64-team field, but this year only 32 teams will be invited. Should the Bison receive an invite, it would be their first trip to the postseason since they made the Women’s Basketball Invitational in 2013.
“I hope their season’s not over,” Grace said of his players. “To be isolated, to be shut down, to not have any social interaction with your friends, to not have homecoming was really something that they thought they would not be able to handle, so I have to give the upmost respect amount of credit. . . .
“But we accepted every challenge that came, we dealt with it, we learned from it and saw success.”
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