- Associated Press - Saturday, March 10, 2012

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Jericka Jenkins hit the go-ahead free throw with 1:20 left and Hampton claimed its third straight NCAA tournament berth, holding on to beat Howard 54-53 on Saturday in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship game.

Jenkins finished with 14 points and Alyssa Bennett added 13 for the top-seeded Pirates (26-4). They came up with three big defensive stops in the final minute to beat Howard for the third time this season.

Tamoria Holmes scored 20 points for the second-seeded Bison (24-8). They erased a late 10-point deficit and had several chances in the final moments but couldn’t convert any of them.

Their last opportunity came after Hampton’s Choicetta McMillian missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 13.4 seconds remaining.

Holmes took an inbounds pass, but her running jumper hit off the back iron and bounced to McMillian, who caught it as the horn sounded.

That sealed a third league championship for third-year Hampton coach David Six.

But this one wasn’t nearly as easy as last year’s 19-point romp over the Bison. This time, his team had to sweat out a series of chances in the final minute for Howard.

After Jenkins’ free throw, Saadia Doyle missed a 3-pointer with about a minute left. Hampton gave the ball back to Howard with about 25 seconds remaining when Keiara Avant ran into trouble in the corner, tried to spike the ball off Holmes — and wound up throwing it away.

The Bison called a timeout to set up the offense and inbounded the ball to Holmes, but her running jumper with about 15 seconds left ricocheted off the side of the backboard.

McMillian then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 13.4 seconds left to set up Howard’s final chance.

Doyle had 16 points for Howard, which erased that double-figure deficit by scoring 10 straight points during the 14-3 run and held Hampton scoreless for nearly six minutes.

Brown’s 3-pointer with a hand in her face tied it at 49 with 3½ minutes remaining. Holmes’ short jumper from the left wing roughly 2 minutes later capped the burst and put the Bison up 53-52 — their first lead since midway through the first half — before Jenkins hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to put Hampton ahead to stay.

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