For a minute it looked as if the N.C. A&T was primed to come back and upset rival N.C. Central.
But only for a minute.
After a 17-8 run cut the Eagles’ lead to three with 3:42 minutes remaining, N.C. Central buckled down on defense and hit tough contested shots. They won 69-58 and finished the conference undefeated with a perfect 16-0 record. The Eagles made their first trip in school history to the NCAA tournament in 2014 and are looking to repeat in 2015.
Senior forward Jordan Parks led the way for the Eagles with 21 points and 13 rebounds. He finished the game with an alley-hoop dunk and flexed his muscles for the cameras flashing in front of him.
The crowd in the sold-out arena roared.
But if Thursday night’s game was indicative of what’s to come in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament, it won’t be as easy as last year. The turned the ball over 11 times and forced 9.The Eagles nearly coasted into the NCAA tournament, except for a close championship game they won 71-62 against Morgan State.
NBA legend honored
Former Boston Celtic great Sam Jones, who played at N.C. Central when it was called N.C. College, officially had his No. 41 jersey retired before the game. Jones played at N.C. Central from 1951-1954, and from 1956-57 after two years in the army. He was joined by his wife and son. Among those in attendance for the ceremony were Governor Pat McCrory and Durham mayor Bill Bell.
After he was booed by some of the crowd in attendance,McCrory presented Jones with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Jones, who won 10 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics, is second on the school’s all-time career points list. Jones said he thinks this year’s NC. Central team has the potential to do well in post season play.
“This team is very very good,” he said. “Hopefully they can repeat from what they did last year. But if they do, we may lose this coach. So we’ve got to be very tough.”