WINSTON-SALEM, NC (Mar. 6) - Coach Clemon Johnson's description of FAMU's experience on gameday read more like a made-for-Hollywood movie, than the experiences of a team at a conference championship basketball tournament. In the end, the Rattlers held off the Coppin State Eagles for a thrilling 74-72 win in the first round of the 2012 MEAC Basketball Tournament at the Joel Memorial Coliseum.
Johnson was elated to see the total team effort he had been trying to conjure up all season. "Great win Rattlers. We came in here unfortunately on a downside because we lost our last three games at home, and as a coach you wonder what's going on in their heads. They've been very resilient all year and tonight it showed," Johnson said.
The Rattlers jumped out to a quick lead behind two early three-pointers by Chris Watson, but Coppin State came back with their own barrage of three-pointers by Logan Wiens and Akeem Ellis. Ellis would finish the game with six three-pointers, while Wiens finished with two.
Amin Stevens, the team's scoring leader, poured in a blue-collar 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, including 1-of-2 from three-point range. Avery Moore had his best game of the season as he connected on 4-of-5 three-pointers, ending the game with 19 points off the bench. With the inclusion of Moore's points, the Rattlers' bench outscored the Eagles' by a margin of 27-7.
Watson finished the day with 13 valuable points on 3-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three-point range. Reggie Lewis scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, going 3-of-5 on three-pointers. Stevens would also grab 10 rebounds for a double-double in the game.
Ellis led the Eagles with 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting, with most of his damage being done from behind the three-point arc. Tony Gallo finished the game with 21 points on 5-of-11 shooting, going 2-of-5 from the behind the arc. Antonio Williams would be the only other Eagle to score in double figures as he chipped in 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting.
With the Rattlers down 15 points at halftime, Johnson said the players refused to give in. "When the players came in the locker room and began to express their trust in one another that this game wasn't over, I knew we had a chance. I felt I could have called the number on any one of our players and they would have performed at that point. We made a few strategy adjustments, but it was more the cohesiveness of the team today that got us this victory," he added.
The Rattlers will move to the quarter final round on Thursday to face the Delaware State Hornets at 6:30 p.m. at the Joel Coliseum.