NORFOLK, Va. — Norfolk State staved off a late Howard rally on Friday night, and as a result the Spartans are championship game-bound once again. The No. 1 seed Spartans topped the No. 4 seed Bison by a 75-69 score in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC)  Basketball Tournament semifinals at Scope Arena.
 
The Spartans advance to Saturday’s title game, where they will take on either No. 2 seed North Carolina A&T State or No. 3 seed North Carolina Central on Saturday at 1 p.m. live on ESPN2.
 
Norfolk State will make its fourth ever MEAC championship game appearance and the second in three years. The Spartans got there after holding back the Bison late in the game, when a 13-point advantage dwindled down to two with less than four minutes left.
 
Norfolk State (21-12) also went to the championship game in 2009, ’12 and ’17. The Spartans will look to join the 2012 squad as the only Spartan teams to capture the title since joining the league.
 
As has been customary the latter half of the season, different players stepped up for Norfolk State on Friday. This time, it was junior Steven Whitley. He had a season-high 24 points on 9-for-16 shooting with five rebounds and three assists.

No shot was bigger than his only 3-point make of the contest with 47.7 seconds left.
 
That make put Norfolk State up by six after the Bison (17-16) had been making shot after shot on the other end of the floor. They made 10 of 13 over an eight-minute stretch after falling behind by 13 with 9:37 to go. Five of those buckets during that time were 3-pointers.

Chad Lott and MEAC Player of the Year R.J. Cole combined for 19 of the team’s 29 points during that stretch.
 
The Spartan lead dropped all the way down to just two points with 3:50 left on a 3-pointer from Howard’s Raymond Bethea Jr. from the left wing. But junior Nic Thomas slashed to the net for two, senior Jordan Butler had a tip-in, and both he and sophomore Mastadi Pitt each made two of two from the line after the Spartans had struggled from the charity stripe throughout the game.
 
Still, the Spartans only led by three in the last few minutes of the game after Lott hit a couple of jumpers. His last one with 1:23 was followed by Whitley’s trey from the right wing on a dish from Pitt. The Bison had a pair of turnovers in the last 40 seconds of the game to stifle their comeback.

Senior Derrik Jamerson Jr. put the Spartans ahead by 13 with his fifth and final 3-pointer of the game. After struggling the last few games, he caught fire against the Bison, hitting five of six from deep for a 15-point night. He also sparked Norfolk State in the first half after Howard built a nine-point lead.
 
Cole finished with 19 points on 6-for-16 shooting with seven assists and five boards. Lott added 21 points, knocking down nine of 16 from the floor. Zion Cousins also contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.
 
The Spartans shot 44 percent from the floor, including 8-of-18 from deep. They did struggle from the free throw line, connecting on just 17-for-29 (58.6 percent).