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Coppin prevails in another race to the wire; Pena's free throw sends Eagles over N.C. A&T;, 68-67


No surprises here.

It was just another hectic night for Coppin State in the wild basketball world of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and the Eagles dodged another bullet.

Coppin needed a free throw by Dorian Pena with nine seconds left to fend off North Carolina A&T;, 68-67, at the Coppin Center and keep pace with Morgan State in the MEAC regular-season race.

Coppin and Morgan both improved their league records to 9-4 last night and moved into a three-way tie with Norfolk State for second place behind South Carolina State (11-3).

However, Norfolk State is not eligible for the MEAC tournament, which means the Eagles and Bears are alone in their fight for the No. 2 seed in the tournament.

Morgan State upset front-running South Carolina State last night at Gilman, prompting Coppin coach Fang Mitchell to shake his head in disbelief over the unpredictable state of the MEAC.

"Can you believe this league?" said Mitchell. "It's going to be a war in Richmond when we go down there for the tournament [March 1-6]. Almost anybody could win it."

Coppin State found itself locked in a tense duel last night against the Aggies (9-13, 6-8) after winning two of three overtime games in its last three outings.

Coppin (10-13, 9-4) just couldn't shake hot-shooting Jonathan Richmond and North Carolina A&T; all night and needed a couple of big misses by the Aggies in the final nine seconds to win.

Coppin had to score the final six points of the game to erase a 67-62 A&T; lead with 1: 58 on the clock.

The Coppin comeback began when the Aggies' Kelvin Clyburn fouled Fred Warrick on a three-point shot, resulting in three free throws by Warrick to reduce the lead to 67-65.

Warrick continued his late heroics by stealing the inbounds pass and driving to the basket for a layup that tied the game at 67 with 1: 21 remaining.

Then just as quickly as he became the hero, Warrick nearly became the goat when Clyburn stole the ball from him with 43 seconds remaining.

"I was mad at myself for standing up instead of staying down on that steal," said Warrick, who wound up with 26 points, five rebounds, three steals and one assist to lead the winners.

However, A&T; couldn't take advantage of the steal from Warrick as Marque Carrington missed a 10-foot jumper with nine seconds left and Pena grabbed the rebound.

Pena was fouled by Carrington and went to the line for two free throws, hitting one of them to send Coppin ahead, 68-67.

To no one's surprise, the Aggies went to Richmond for the last shot of the game, a three-point jumper that missed.

"When we had to play defense at the end, we did and that's why we won," said Mitchell. "We had four guards in there and it created a lot of defensive pressure that resulted in some key turnovers."

NORTH CAROLINA A&T; -- Clyburn 4-4 1-1 9, Chambers 1-1 0-0 2, Richmond 8-18 3-3 23, Carrington 4-12 2-4 10, Price 0-0 0-1 0, Perkins 0-1 0-0 0, Murphy 0-0 2-3 2, Garrett 4-8 4-5 12, Jenkins 3-6 1-2 7, Taalib 0-2 0-0 0, Tetterton 1-2 0-1 2. Totals 25-54 13-20 67.

COPPIN STATE -- Pointer 1-3 0-0 2, Pena 3-10 5-8 11, Sims 3-6 2-3 9, Cajigas 0-5 3-4 3, Warrick 6-15 10-11 26, Seamon 5-8 2-2 13, Watkins 0-2 4-7 4. Totals 18-49 26-35 68.

Halftime--Coppin State, 38-30. 3-point goals--N 4-14 (Richmond 4-8, Carrington 0-4, Perkins 0-1, Garrett 0-1); C 6-14 (Sims 1-3, Cajigas 0-2, Warrick 4-8, Seamon 1-1). Rebounds--N 33 (Jenkins 6); C 35 (Pena 9). Assists--N 4 (Garrett 2); C 1 (Sims 6). Total fouls--N 23; C 19. A--1,517.

Pub Date: 2/09/99

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