Hawks to open MEAC play at Morgan State Jan. 3
PRINCESS ANNE, Maryland -
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore (3-9) have spent much of the season waiting: For injured players to return to the court, for the conference season to approach and — now that it has — to get through the gauntlet of its first few games.
The first of those comes Wednesday (Jan. 3) at 5:30 p.m. when the Hawks travel to Baltimore to open the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference season at Morgan State (7-6).
“Our schedule is really tough to start off,” Hawks coach Fred Batchelor said. “We start off on the road and then we play three of the better projected team in the league. It’s a huge challenge for us, but I think it’s good because we get tested early and we’ll just have to really be able to handle it.”
After the Hawks face Morgan — picked eight in the preseason poll — they host Hampton (No. 1) and Bethune-Cookman (No. 2).
While the Bears were voted to finish in the middle of the MEAC pack along with the Hawks (picked 7th), they present a challenge especially at Hill Field House.
“I think tempo will be important,” Batchelor said. “They do a great job of playing the type of basketball they wat to play. If you get caught up in doing that you are going to lose. They are very scrappy and they are great rebounding team. So, if you don’t fight and be solid, disciplined and tough they are a tough team to beat on the road.”
The Bears like to get out and run and boast wins against Mount St. Mary’s, Central Connecticut, NJIT, Florida International and UMass Lowell. They also racked up a school-record 123 points in a win against Division II Cheyney and beat DII Lincoln.
For Morgan, it often starts in the inside with 6-foot-2 senior Lexus Spears who is averaging 14 points and 6.8 rebounds and one block a game.
“She is probably one of the best post players in the league. We have to worry about her ability to get to the offensive glass,” Batchelor said. “She is tough and she plays really hard.”
In the backcourt the senior Braennan Farrar, who leads the team in every category that Spears doesn’t. She leads is second on the team in scoring (12.6 ppg), rebounding (5.2 rpg) and leads the team with 3.8 assists and 2.9 steals per contest.
“Farrar is an experienced guard who has been around for a while, has had some individual success in the league,” Batchelor said. “And they also have some depth.”
Both senior Tykyrah Williams (9.6 ppg) and junior JUCO transfer Kayla Horn (5.6 ppg) both contribute on offense, while forward Adre’onia Coleman is averaging nine points and five rebounds over 10 games.
“On top of all that, they have a very seasoned, experienced, knowledgeable coach in Edward Davis, who is able to manipulate a game in many ways with his experience and his style of play,” Batchelor said. “He is always going to be a tough out whether it’s on the road, at home in a tournament — wherever based on that experience.”
They Hawks will use the same starting lineup for just the seoncd game in a row after debuting it with a healthy compliment of players for the first time this season at East Carolina.
Ciani Byrom (Winston-Salem, North Carolina), Keyera Eaton (Winston-Salem, North Carolina), Jordyn Smith (Durham, North Carolina), Bairesha Gill-Miles (Lexington, Kentucky) and Martha Thompson (Bedford Heights, Ohio) began the game, while several key players were now able to come off the bench.
“I felt like our starters didn’t play as well at ECU, but our bench played really well,” Batchelor said. “That’s because there is time to come before they will be comfortable playing with each other. I feel like we are putting our best five players on the floor, but it has also led to some very effective bench play, which I think is going to be critical for us to be successful throughout the year.”
Alexus Hicks (Raleigh, North Carolina) led the team in scoring with 11 off the bench and Dominique Walker (Bel Air, Maryland) chipped in 10 as the Eastern Shore reserves outscored the Pirates’ bench 28-13. Senior Tori Morris (Herndon, Virginia) also played as a reserve for the first time this season allowing her to provide much needed size and rebounding from there.
“I feel good about the fact that we have kids who were starting coming off the bench and are playing better than when they started,” Batchelor said. “t also puts them in a different role. Now we just need the others who are in the starting lineup to be effective as starters.”
For more information on Eastern Shore Athletics visit http://www.easternshorehawks.com/.
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