Tameka McKelton took over the game down the final stretch, scoring the team's last seven points to put away the UMES Hawks. Head coach LeDawn Gibson was just relieved that the Lady Rattlers passed the first test of the tournament. "We've got to get some rest and get refocused for Howard on tomorrow. We didn't have our best today, but the way the ladies showed determination down the stretch is a positive sign for us," Gibson said.
McKelton led FAMU with 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting from the field, including one made three-pointer. Antonia Bennett, who was honored before the game for her selection as the MEAC's Player of the Year, added a yeoman's 12 points for the Lady Rattlers. Bennett contributed with an all around game, going 5-of-16 from the field, including 2-of-6 from the three-point arc.
Qiana Donald, who received her honor as the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year before tipoff, was the workhorse as a big presence in the middle scoring 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field.
The Lady Rattlers found a way to win, though they were not consistent from the field. In the first half, they shot 11-of-30 for 36.7 percent, but only managed 8-of-27 in the second half, just 29.6 percent. From three-point range, the Lady Rattlers shot just 5-of-18 for the game, a 27.8 percent clip. Another key to the Lady Rattlers' struggles can be attributed to their 7-of-14 (50 percent) shooting from the free throw line.
Gibson credited her three senior leaders with stabilizing the Lady Rattlers to get the win. "Our three seniors stepped up. You could tell they didn't want to lose this game. Tameka McKelton is a big time closer. She made some key shots and I'm just proud of these young ladies," she said.
Chelsea Sanders was the game-high scorer with 25 points on 11-of-20 shooting for the Hawks. Adobi Agbasi was the only other Hawk to score in double-figures as she went 3-of-11 for 10 points.
With the game tied at 48, the Rattlers got a rebound and ran an inbounds play to McKelton, who scored what would turn out to be the game winning field goal. "We had never run that play, I just told Tameka to curl under behind the screen and she took it up real strong and made the basket," Gibson said.
McKelton attributed her aggressiveness at the end of the game to the fact that she felt the team's mission had not been accomplished yet. "I can accredit it to determination. I didn't want to go home tonight. We've come real far this season, it's been a good year and my teammates found me in the right spot with a great pass and I just put it up," McKelton said.
The Lady Rattlers' task gets no easier as they will face the No.2 seed Howard Bison in a rematch of one of their two conference loses on the season. The Lady Rattlers were defeated 68-61 by the Bison in Washington D.C. on Feb. 11. The Lady Rattlers are gearing up for the rematch with the Bison on tomorrow. "We are looking forward to another great game against Howard. Niki (Geckeler) does a great job with her team, so you know they are well coached. We've got to go back and put our game plan together because it was a close game when we last played them in February. We've evaluated what we did wrong in that game and we'll try to execute better on tomorrow," Gibson concluded.
The Lady Rattlers will face the Bison at 2:30 p.m. on tomorrow. Live coverage is via WANM 90.5-FM. The came is also streamed free of charge on the MEAC's official Webpage, www.MEACSports.com.