Coppin State reaches final

The Baltimore Sun

RALEIGH, N.C. -- For the Coppin State women's team, the one constant is always defense. For Danielle Anders, it always has been her weakest link.

That may be changing - for Anders, but not Coppin.

The Eagles got a big defensive contribution from their junior forward and enough offense from seniors Shalamar Oakley and Rashida Suber to take down Delaware State, 63-56, yesterday at the RBC Center and advance to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference women's championship game.

Second-seeded Coppin (21-11) gets a rematch with top-seeded North Carolina A&T; (25-6) today at 1 p.m. and a chance to gain its third NCAA tournament berth in four years.

The 5-foot-11 Anders drew the defensive assignment of guarding Hornets point guard Keyhana Wakefield and made her coach proud.

"I thought we defended really well," Coppin's Derek Brown said. "We put [Anders] on the point guard. With her length and her quickness and the way we wanted to force people, I think we took them out of their offense a little bit."

Anders attributed her newfound defensive grit to working against Oakley, the MEAC's Player of the Year, in practice. "Defense has always been one of my weak points," Anders said. "For the past month, I've been guarding Shalamar in practice and it gave me confidence."

Coppin used a 13-1 run early in the first half to open a 10-point lead, then spent the rest of the game knocking back the Hornets (18-14). Anders not only delivered a solid game on defense, she scored 14 points, including two free throws and a field goal after Delaware State got within 54-50 in the final two minutes.

She also had a big play inside that rejected another Delaware State run.

Meanwhile, Oakley, who hit one of nine shots in a Feb. 2 win over Delaware State, dropped in seven of 12 this time and scored a game-high 17 points. Suber struggled for 16 points against a zone defense that crowded her every move.

Coppin takes a 10-game winning streak into the championship game, but lost 61-50 to A&T; when they last met on Jan. 14.

"We've got to deal with their press," Brown said. "If we take care of the press, I like our chances. If we don't, I don't like our chances."

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