COLD AS ICE WINTERS HITS GAME-WINNER, AGGIES WIN MEAC TITLE!
Senior Deja Winters hits the game-winning 3-pointer with three seconds remaining.
NORFOLK, Va. – Deja Winters hit one of the biggest shots in North Carolina A&T women’s basketball history. The Aggies won the 2021 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) tournament Saturday afternoon at the Norfolk Scope Arena, 59-57, over the Howard Bison.
It is the Aggies third MEAC championship in six years. Overall, the program has its fifth championship as the current Aggies join the 1994, 2009, 2016 and 2018 teams who won MEAC tournaments. N.C. A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson has been a part of four of the Aggies five championships as he served as the associate head coach on the Aggies 2009 MEAC championship team.
Winters heroics were set up by two missed free throws by Howard’s Iyanna Warren, with the Bison leading 57-56 with 11 seconds remaining in the game. Graduate Chanin Scott grabbed the rebound on the second miss, and junior Jasmen Walton raced the ball up the floor.
She found a wide-open Winters in the corner near the Aggies bench, and Winters proceeded to swish the nets to give the Aggies a two-point lead with three seconds remaining. Howard’s desperation three to win the game went long, giving A&T another championship.
“We were trying to get a two, but Deja is a big-time player,” said Robinson, who will lead the Aggies to their sixth postseason appearance in nine years. “That was a heckuva shot. “I can’t take credit for anything that happened. That last part of the game was all my team.”
A&T is headed to the NCAA tournament in San Antonio, Texas, next week with a 14-2 record. The Aggies will find out who their opponent is at 6 p.m., Monday on ESPN.
Before Winters game-winning shot, she had another huge moment for the Aggies. With Howard leading by four points, 57-53, with 1:18 remaining in the game, Winters hit a 3-pointer off a screen from senior forward Jayla Jones-Pack to close within a point, 57-56, with 50 seconds remaining.
After a Bison turnover with 21 seconds on the clock, the Aggies called timeout. Out of the timeout, the Aggies turned the ball over with only 13 seconds remaining. Warren was fouled immediately to set up the game’s last-second drama.
“Deja Winters is a big-time player. I’m not even going to take credit for those shots. I was thinking about the next play. Players make plays. We turned the ball over on a play I drew up. We end up fouling, and Howard didn’t convert. We ended up drawing up something else, and Deja made another broken play work,” said Robinson about Winters shot that made it a 57-56 ballgame.
Howard (15-4) led 19-10 after the first quarter before the Aggies rallied to take a 31-27 halftime lead.
The MEAC’s two No. 1 seeds battled to a 35-35 tie over the first five minutes of the third quarter. A&T started to pull away as a 9-0 run highlighted by four points from senior center Jayla Jones-Pack and a 3-pointer from Winters to give the Aggies a 44-35 lead with 3:43 remaining in the quarter.
Howard answered with a 9-0 run of their own, spearheaded by Warren’s five points to tie the game at 44 going into the fourth. The Bison led for most of the fourth quarter, but its lead never got above four before the Aggies won the game on Winters’ shot.
All three Aggie seniors scored in double-figures-digits led by Jones-Pack, the tournament MVP. Jones-Pack finished with 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting from the floor and added four blocks and six rebounds.
Winters scored 15 points and hit 10 3-pointers in the two games the Aggies played in Norfolk. Scott recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“My seniors showed up this weekend and would not let us lose,” said Robinson. “I’m just so thankful we’re in this situation that we’re in during this time and this climate. A lot is going on in the world.”
For the foreseeable future, this will be the Aggies last MEAC title because the program is moving to the Big South Conference next season.
“We were determined to go out the right way,” said Robinson. “My ladies made a lot of sacrifices this year. For us, it was all or nothing. Our first goal was to win the (MEAC southern division), and our second goal was to leave the MEAC as champions.”
Warren led the Bison with 21 points and six assists.