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MEAC Tournament Final: Hampton uses late run to put away South Carolina State, reach NCAA Tournament

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The Pirates made it back-to-back titles with a 14-2 run with four minutes to play.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Hampton may have to put in a call to Norfolk State to say thanks, because the Spartans had a little bit to do sending the Pirates dancing for the second year in a row.

Friday night, the Spartans used a 12-2 run to come back on South Carolina State and the Bulldogs had to scramble to just make the championship game against Hampton. With about four minutes left on Saturday, their legs finally gave out.

Hampton put together a 14-2 run to close out the game, and move on to the NCAA Tournament with an 81-69 win.

Brian Darden scored 22 points, including a 4-for-8 performance from behind the 3-point line, and Reginald Johnson helped lead the way with 21 points and eight assists. Jervon Pressley came off the bench to score 14 points and pull in nine rebounds.

Together, the three ruined an impressive performance from South Carolina State's Eric Eaves, who led all scorers with 25 points to go with five rebounds and four assists.

The Pirates will enter the NCAA Tournament at 20-10, and began the day with an RPI of 164. They went 0-3 against the top 50 and 0-2 against the remainder of the top 100, while playing the 326th ranked schedule in the country. That run included losses to Nicholls State and Md.-Eastern Shore, two of the bottom 50 teams.

All signs would point to a trip back to Dayton for Hampton, although they may not be complaining. In the 2015 NCAA Tournament, the Pirates turned their Dayton trip into a 10-point win over Manhattan. They moved on to play Kentucky, and their season ended with a 79-56 loss.