Courtesy of Shawn Yonker, UMES Athletics
To say that the University of Maryland Eastern Shore is right where it wants to be in Friday’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference semifinal against No. 1 seed Howard may seem a bit odd.
But as a program that has upset two No. 1 seeds in the last eight years (Hampton 2014, Bethune-Cookman 2020) and with nine players on the roster who were part of the upset of the Wildcats, they are in pretty familiar territory.
“They are the No. 1 seed and they made it to the conference championship last year,” Hawks coach Fred Batchelor said. “They have a great leader in their floor general. They have a lot of pieces. They are well coached and there is a lot of class in that program. I respect what they do, how they represent themselves and how they represented the league. It’s going to be an honor to play them in the second round. We are going to have our hands full and we are going to need to play a better game than we did today in order to be successful, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Eastern Shore (12-15) stepped up its game on Thursday (March 10) in a 73-65 win against No. 4 seed Coppin State. In that contest, sophomore guard Zamara Haynes (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) put up career totals in points with 25 and rebounds with 8, while shooting 50% (9-of-18) from the field and 78% (7-of-9) from the free throw line.
“I told her the biggest challenge she is going to face going forward is being able in less than 24 hours to mentally and emotionally get ready to come back and play against the No. 1 seed,” head coach Fred Batchelor said. “It is still yet to be determined how we finish and I’m looking forward to having her on my team as we face Howard.”
Haynes — like the rest of her team — was pumped following the victory and is at least mentally ready for what the team will face on Friday.
“I know it is going to be a good game,” Haynes said. “We are going to fight. There is going to be a lot of tension. Now they have their missing piece that they didn’t have when we beat them so we have to make sure that we are still going to execute and get the dub.”
When the Hawks picked up a 66-59 win at Burr Gymnasium on Feb. 5, The Bison (18-9) were without starting point guard Iyanna Warren. She averages 8.2 points and 4.3 assists, but also is a key part of running the team’s offense.
“We have to keep the same mindset and stick to our same principles,” Haynes said. “We look forward to showing what we are going to bring to the table. We are going to match their energy and hopefully tomorrow we come out on the better end.
While the youngsters like Haynes, Lesley Thomas(Browns Summit, North Carolina) and the other freshmen and sophomores are seeing their first MEAC Tournament action, veterans like graduate student Bairesha Gill-Miles have been working to make sure they knew what to expect.
“We have just been trying to tell them that it’s time to step up,” Gill-Miles said. “We have been through so much this season — COVID, injuries and stuff like that — we are just trying to make sure everyone stays connected, everybody knows what our goal is, everybody knows their roles, what they need to do and what they can contribute.”
“Now it’s on to the next one. We want two more games, but we have to get this next one first.”