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Morgan women surprise Coppin

The Baltimore Sun

Raleigh, N.C. -- The queens of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference are done.

And how fitting that they were vanquished by one of the most Cinderella-like teams in this tournament.

Morgan State pulled off one of the biggest upsets in MEAC tournament history yesterday, sending two-time defending champion Coppin State home early in a wild 69-67 semifinal victory in overtime at the RBC Center.

The Bears, seeded fourth but largely a team that finished in 10th place in the MEAC regular season a year ago, will play for the championship today at 3 (tape delay, 11 a.m. tomorrow, ESPNU), their first title game in 22 years.

One more win and Morgan State will earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Bears play second seed Delaware State, which beat No. 6 Florida A&M;, 61-46, in the other semifinal.

Coppin State (24-7), which entered as the No. 1 seed and consensus pick to win it again, saw its 49-game winning streak over league opponents (including postseason games) end suddenly.

"It ain't gonna happen again, never," a sweaty and beside-himself Bears coach Donald Beasley said as he plopped in a chair for a post-game news conference. "That streak will never be broken."

Whitney Johnson scored a team-high 17 points and was the lone force that kept Morgan State's upset bid alive. It was Johnson who scored the game-tying basket in regulation with 29 seconds left and then made another tying basket and go-ahead point on a three-point play at 2:04 of overtime.

Rashida Suber, the league's Player of the Year, scored a game-high 18 points for the Eagles. She had a chance to leave the court the matron and send her team to its third consecutive title game. But her two jump shots in the last seconds of regulation fell short.

Despite Beasley's hollering "She won't try for two!" seconds before, Shalamar Oakley's drive to the rim with 10 seconds left in overtime missed for Coppin State.

Britney Griffin was there to grab the rebound and Morgan State (18-12) flooded the court in celebration.

"It's win or go home," Johnson said. "I told my team we were not going home."

The last seven minutes of regulation were perhaps the strangest stretch imaginable, with odd scene after odd scene.

Down 11, his team's largest deficit, at the 6:57 mark, Beasley made a wholesale substitution, pulling his starters for reserves. A minute later, the flustered Beasley barked for the return of his starters, who promptly orchestrated a 15-4 run to end regulation.

And there was center Griffin (10 points and eight rebounds) getting clocked in the jaw by the Eagles' Whitney Cunningham while chasing a rebound. Griffin later returned with a bandage on her chin.

Up 64-60, Johnson hit a layup with 2:18 left. She was stripped of the ball on the following possession, but on her next defensive stand, blocked a shot, was handed the ball and scored the tying bucket that sent the game to OT.

MORGAN STATE -Adams 5-20 5-6 16, Johnson 6-19 1-5 17, Banks 0-1 0-0 0, Phillips 4-4 1-2 12, Price 2-7 0-0 4, Gaskins 1-3 0-0 2, Reed 0-0 0-0 0, P. Jones 0-0 0-0 0, L. Jones 3-4 2-3 8, Griffin 4-10 2-3 10. Totals 25-68 14-21 69. COPPIN STATE -Harden 4-8 2-2 10, Oakley 4-14 0-0 8, Sutton 4-11 2-4 10, Suber 7-24 0-0 18, Noel 5-9 2-2 12, Anders 0-1 1-2 1, Cunningham 4-9 0-1 8. Totals 28-76 7-11 67. Half-Coppin State, 38-31. 3-point goals-Morgan St. 5-16 (Phillips 3-3, Adams 1-5, Banks 1-5, Price 0-2, Gaskins 0-1); Coppin State 4-17 (Suber 4-15, Noel 0-1, Oakley 0-1). Rebounds-Morgan St. 46 (L. Jones, Griffin 8); Coppin St. 53 (Cunningham 14). Assists-Morgan St. 13 (Price 5); Coppin St. 11 (Oakley 4). Total fouls-Morgan St. 12, Coppin St. 16. Fouled out-None. A-n/a.

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