Hampton 57, S. Carolina St. 46

From intramurals to the NCAA tournament, it’s been a wild year

for Hampton’s self-proclaimed “unknown commodity.”

Now David Six hopes he’s given the world of women’s basketball a

good reason to learn who he and his Pirates are.

Hampton’s interim coach won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

title in his first year, beating South Carolina State 57-46 on

Saturday night behind 17 points and 16 rebounds from tournament MVP

Melanie Warner.

Quanneisha Perry added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the

second-seeded Pirates (20-11), who shot 40 percent and won their

first NCAA tournament berth since they had three league titles from

2000-04.

Last year, they lost to North Carolina A&T in the title

game. That was roughly a month before the school opted not to renew

Walter Mebane’s contract after four seasons and Six, a

title-winning coach in Hampton – Hampton High School, that is –

went from directing the university’s department of intramurals to

running its women’s basketball program.

“I’m an unknown commodity,” Six said. “How often does a high

school coach get an opportunity to move to a Division I head coach?

You almost never hear of it.”

So, is it time to get rid of that interim tag yet?

“Here’s my thing: I never introduced myself to my players as

‘Interim coach David Six,”’ he said. “I’m just Coach Six. Things

will work themselves out. I enjoy the opportunity and time I’ve had

with them, and we’re going to focus on next year. That’s about

it.”

Sophilla Hipps had 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting for the

eighth-seeded Bulldogs (14-19). They were denied both their third

straight upset at the tournament and their first league title in 17

years.

Bernadette Fortune had 12 points for Hampton, which had two

players with double-doubles for the first time since 2006 and

reached the NCAA tournament for the third time in school history

and got rid of the sour taste that lingered from last year’s

title-game loss.

“We came out, we told ourselves we wouldn’t let what happened

last year happen this year,” Warner said. “We didn’t want our

freshmen to have to feel that.”

The Pirates were in control throughout in this one, pushing

their lead to 12 when Warner capped a 10-4 burst with a 3-pointer

from the corner that made it 40-28 with 13 minutes left. The

Bulldogs didn’t get closer than nine the rest of the way.

“We did some different kind of things” defending Warner and

Perry, South Carolina State coach Doug Robertson said. “She’s just

a physical basketball player and she caused us matchup issues just

with her ability to rebound the basketball.”

Hampton, which won both of its previous tournament games by at

least 20 points apiece, led for all but roughly 2 minutes. Warner

was especially strong in the first half, scoring 11 points before

the break, and the Pirates pushed their lead into double figures on

Perry’s layup that made it 25-15 with 3 1/2 minutes before the

break.

Tiara Knotts finished with 10 points and Paris Alston added 11

rebounds for South Carolina State, which was trying to accomplish

the rare feat of winning four games at the tournament.

The Bulldogs knocked out ninth-seeded Coppin State before

pulling a pair of upsets, stunning top-seeded North Carolina

A&T and beating fourth-seeded Howard in the semifinals to reach

the championship game for the first time since winning their second

straight league title in 1993.

“I won’t attribute any of that to fatigue,” Robertson said.

“I think we put a little bit more pressure on ourselves than we

needed to.”