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Delaware State women capture first MEAC Tourney Crown

March 10, 2007

Second-seeded Delaware State, which had come up short six previous times, made the seventh time the charm Saturday when the Lady Hornets defeated fourth-seeded Morgan State 55-42 to capture the school’s first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference women’s tournament championship at the RBC Center.

Del-State, which was making its fifth appearance in the MEAC tournament championship game in seven years and its seventh trip to the title game overall, had lost in its six previous appearances, including a 46-36 setback to Coppin last year.

But thanks to the play of juniors Katreem Palmer and Raquel Collier -- both All-Tournament selections – the Lady Hornets finally captured the elusive tournament crown and a trip to the prestigious NCAA Championship. Davis’ team will learn its opponent and destination on Sunday at 8 p.m. when the NCAA tournament pairings are announced on ESPN.

Palmer had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Collier contributed 15 points for Del-State. Ashlee Burbage was also in double figures with 11 points, and Thea Littlepage pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds in the Lady Hornets victory, which lifted the team’s record to 20-12.

Palmer had five points and Collier four during a decisive run in which the Lady Hornets turned a five-point 39-34 advantage with 10:27 left into a 51-38 cushion on Palmer’s three-point play with 3:31 remaining.

“I’m happy for players like Raquel and Katreem,” Davis said, “Because we came up short last year and to win it this time means a lot to them and our program.

“This (winning after six previous failures) is a feeling of relief. Delaware State made history today as we have never, ever won an MEAC (women’s basketball) Championship.”

Morgan State, which earned a spot in the championship with a 69-67 overtime upset of top-seeded Coppin State in the semifinals some 24 hours earlier, completed its best season since the 1999-2000 campaign finishing at 18-13. The 18 victories by Beasley’s team set a single-season school record.

“They simply beat us,” said Don Beasley of Morgan State during the post season press conference. “It’s been a long season, we played a lot of games, and no one expected us to get this far.”

He praised the effort of his team, which was obviously fatigued after its upset victory over Coppin on Friday.

“Fatigue was definitely a factor,” he said. “Playing Coppin 24 hours earlier in a game like that definitely took its toll on us. But, I’m proud of our players and their effort. They gave it all they had.”

Morgan scored the first basket of the contest, but Del-State got the next 11 points to go ahead 11-2 when Palmer got a layup off a break with 13:45 left in the opening half.

The Lady Bears rallied and closed the gap to 19-18 on a drive by Whitney Johnson -- the only Morgan player in double figures with 11 points – with 3:25 left in the period, but Del-State scored the final eight points of the half to go to the break ahead 27-18.

The Lady Bears started the final period with an 11-7 run to get to within 34-29 with 13:34 remaining but the five-point deficit was the closest Morgan would come the rest of the way as the Lady Hornets beat back each rally behind the play of Palmer and Collier, and Littlepage’s efforts on the boards.

Palmer and Collier were joined on the All-Tournament team by Johnson and Adams, both of Morgan State and Florida A&M’s Marke Freeman. Collier earned Most Outstanding Tournament honor, while Davis garnered Most Outstanding Tournament Coaching honors.