WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Hampton is getting comfortable with these conference titles. Now the Lady Pirates are determined not to be first-round fodder in their second straight NCAA tournament appearance.
Quanneisha Perry, Jerika Jenkins and Melanie Warner scored 13 points apiece and Hampton pulled away in the second half to beat Howard 61-42 on Saturday, giving coach David Six a second Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship in his two years on the job.
"Last year, I was a freshman coach and everybody was a freshman because I was new and we were feeling everybody out," Six said. "This year we knew what we wanted to do.
"Last year's showing in the NCAA tournament left a bad taste in our mouth. We wanted to get back. We knew we were better," Six said.
Six believes the 72-37 drubbing against Duke won't happen again. Riding a 13-game winning streak and owning out-of-conference wins over Florida and James Madison has Six thinking a No. 14 seed -- and an upset chance -- is a possibility.
"We want to win an NCAA tournament game," said Six, as one of the nets his players had cut down hung around his neck. "I think we're good enough to win. You don't go 25-6 and not be pretty good."
The top-seeded Lady Pirates used suffocating defense to wear down the sixth-seeded Lady Bison (16-18), who shot 28 percent from the field in their fourth game in five days.
"We had quite a few layups down the stretch that were just short," coach Niki Reid Geckeler said. "Our players were giving everything they had, but I think this fourth game, in that second half, it really got to us."
MEAC player of the year Saadia Doyle had 16 points and seven rebounds but took only nine shots for Howard, which upset North Carolina A&T and Morgan State to reach its first conference final since 2001. Tamoria Holmes added 12 points.
"Being able to make it to this championship game with so many young players, we're just very, very excited about the future," Reid Geckeler said.
Leading only 21-16 at halftime, Hampton took control with a 9-0 run that included Keiara Avant's consecutive buckets to make it 35-21 with 12:33 left. Howard never made another serious charge with Hampton's defense harassing Doyle.
"Their defense was really sagging in the lane so it made it hard to penetrate and get to the basket," Doyle said. "So we had to take a lot of jump shots, especially with a defender in our face."
Hampton also forced 17 turnovers, while committing only 12. The Lady Pirates dominated the glass, 41-29.
"This championship feels better than the first one because it never hit me that we won [last year]. This time it's like back-to-back," said Perry, who added eight rebounds. "We work hard. We really work hard. Getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning running the track, it paid off today.
"I love my teammates for letting me go out with a big bang my senior year," Perry said.
It was the end of a successful day for Hampton, whose men's basketball team beat Morgan State 60-55 on the same floor a few hours earlier for its own MEAC crown. Men's players, wearing championship T-shirts and hats, cheered on the final seconds from behind the Hampton bench.
"The coaching staffs and the teams are very close. We're in each other's offices all the time," Six said. "We're right there with them."
Now the women will try to emulate the 2001 Hampton men's team, which stunned Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"We don't want to put in a good showing," Six said. "We want to win."