Courtesy of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
Box Score | Championship Central | Media Center | Postgame Press Conference
NORFOLK, Va., March 11, 2022 – Seventh-seeded Coppin State built a 15-point lead with just over six minutes remaining but had to survive a fierce rally by third-seeded North Carolina Central in registering a 79-73 win over the Eagles Friday in the semifinals of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Basketball Tournament.
Coppin will meet top-seeded Norfolk State in Saturday’s final, which tips at 1 p.m. and will be carried live on ESPN2. The Spartans, who made the finals with a 72-63 victory over Morgan State, swept Coppin State during the regular season.
The Coppin Eagles, who improved to 9-22 on the season, will be making their first appearance in the championship game since 2008, when they beat Morgan State for the title.
“I’m super excited for our basketball program and our institution,” Coppin head coach Juan Dixon said. “We faced a lot of adversity this year and for us to be at this point, to have an opportunity to win a MEAC championship, means a lot to us.”
Jesse Zarzuela tied his career high of 27 points, matching his total against St. Bonaventure earlier in the year to lead Coppin State. His effort included a 6-for-8 performance from 3-point range, as well as a seven-assist night for head coach Juan Dixon’s team.
Backcourt mate Nendah Tarke, whose short jumper was the difference in the final seconds of a 59-57 quarterfinal win over Howard, chipped in 14 points and Justin Steers 13, along with a game-high 13 rebounds in the win.
The NCCU Eagles, who finished the campaign 16-15, had four players in double figures, led by Kris Monroe’s 18 points. Justin Wright added 14 and Eric Boone and Randy Miller Jr. had 12 each in the loss. Cameron Butler had just three points but snared 10 rebounds to lead N.C. Central on the boards.
The Eagles enjoyed a 40-32 edge in rebounds.
Coppin State went ahead 66-51 when reserve Mike Hood, who contributed seven points, nailed a 3-pointer with 6:25 left on the clock. Following an Eagle timeout, Central went on a 10-0 run to close to within 68-61 at the 3:47 mark.
Tarke got a basket to break the NCCU run, but consecutive baskets by the Eagles’ Nicolas Fennell and Monroe closed the gap to 68-65 with just under two minutes left. Tarke made one of two from the line to push the Coppin lead to four, 69-65, with 1:40; however, NCCU made yet another run and closed to with 75-73 with 25.7 seconds on the clock before Hood and Zarzuela added two free throws each to seal the win for the Coppin State.