On top of Re­gion XX

CSM men’s hoops wins ti­tle, headed to NJCAA tour­ney in Illi­nois

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By TED BLACK tblack@somd­news.com

Dur­ing a week­end in which up­sets were the norm and not the ex­cep­tion, the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land men’s bas­ket­ball team emerged as the sixth seed to cap­ture the Na­tional Ju­nior Col­le­giate Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion Re­gion XX Di­vi­sion II Tour­na­ment at Gar­rett Col­lege in McHenry with a 7674 vic­tory over Ce­cil Com­mu­nity Col­lege on Sun­day.

CSM (14-16 over­all) headed into the tour­na­ment hav­ing been idle three weeks since a 94-76 set­back at Al­lega- ny Col­lege on Feb. 17. The Hawks had won their pre­vi­ous con­test, 103-56 over Thomas Nel­son Col­lege (Va.), a vic­tory that ended a four-game skid after CSM had won four of five out­ings and three straight con­tests in late Fe­bru­ary.

In most post­sea­son tour­na­ments, such as the up­com­ing NCAA Di­vi­sion I men’s bas­ket­ball cham­pi­onship, of­ten re­ferred to sim­ply as March Mad­ness, the out- come of­ten re­flects a gen­uine hi­er­ar­chy as higher seeds tend to ad­vance much fur­ther than lower ones. But the Re­gion XX tour­na­ment of­fered a com­plete con­trast to those ex­pec­ta­tions as CSM started and com­pleted the un­lucky sce­nario in which the lower seed won five of the seven games.

The sixth-seeded CSM men promptly kicked the tour­na­ment off Fri­day with a 96-63 vic­tory over third-seeded CCBCDun­dalk. Fel­low lower seeds Fred­er­ick Com­mu­nity Col­lege and Ce­cil fol­lowed with up­set vic­to­ries as the sev­enth and fifth seeds, re­spec­tively, un­til top seed and host Gar­rett ended the brief mad­ness with an over­time vic­tory.

“For us to have been off for three weeks and still come out and play with that much en­ergy and that much fo­cus was a credit to our play­ers and our coaches,” said CSM head coach Alan Hoyt, a Great Mills High School grad­u­ate. “That first game was the only one I was wor­ried about. You hate to prac­tice that long and then get sent home after one game. But we dom­i­nated the game and that gave us a chance to re­lax and watch the other teams.”

CSM owned a 43-28 half­time lead over CCBC-Dun­dalk and the Hawks did not let up in the sec­ond half. David Fran­cis led the way with 18 points and 12 re­bounds and An­thony Wil­liams (a North Point High School grad­u­ate from Wal­dorf) added 12 points and 11 as­sists and Jor­dan Bat­tle (a Thomas Stone High School grad­u­ate from Wal- dorf had 12 points, as did Do­minic Espeleta (a West­lake High School grad­u­ate from Wal­dorf).

Levon Ran­dall (a Thomas Stone High School grad­u­ate from Wal­dorf) scored 11 points off the bench, while An­to­nio Tavares (a Hunt­ing­town High School grad­u­ate from Ch­e­sa­peake Beach) added nine, while Trevon Porter (a Great Mills High School grad­u­ate from Lex­ing­ton Park) and Sean Scott (a St.

Charles High School grad- uate from Wal­dorf) had eight each. Ryan Stearns (a Leonard­town High School grad­u­ate from Leonard­town) had six.

CSM edged Fred­er­ick 75-71 in the first Re­gion XX semi­fi­nal Satur­day, which was fol­lowed by Ce­cil’s up­set of Gar­rett.

Sun­day’s cham­pi­onship game was a close con­test from the out­set as nei­ther team led by more than seven points in the first half or more than four points in the sec­ond. Bat­tle nailed two free throws with 5.4 sec- onds re­main­ing to give CSM the lead and even­tual vic­tory. Fran­cis was named the Re­gion XX tour­na­ment Most Valu­able Player and Scott was also named the the all-tour­na­ment team.

“We’ve been on the other end of close losses like that,” Hoyt said. “A few years ago we were up one point with five sec­onds left and could not close it out. We saw Ce­cil emerge last year as a lower seed and this year it came down to us and them and for­tu­nately when Jor­dan hit those two clutch free throws we were able to get a de­fen­sive stop to win it. It was a to­tal team ef­fort.”

With the Re­gion XX ti­tle un­der them, the CSM men can now set their sights on the NJCAA Di­vi­sion II na­tional tour­na­ment at Danville Area Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Danville, Ill., March 21 to 25. Un­like March Mad­ness, the NJCAA Di­vi­sion II tour­na­ment is dou­ble-elim­i­na­tion and only the top eight teams are seeded with the other eight seeds be­ing de­ter- mined by a ran­dom draw.

“I wish we had three weeks to get ready for ev­ery tour­na­ment, but we’ll spend plenty of time in the gym all this week and prob­a­bly on Satur­day and Sun­day, too,” Hoyt said. “Then we’ll leave late Sun­day night and get there on Mon­day. It’s a dou­ble-elim­i­na­tion for­mat, so we’ll have at least two games and maybe we can be out there for four or five. We are go­ing out there with the only team with a los­ing record, but that doesn’t mean any­thing now.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF TWIT­TER: @CSMHEADLINES

The Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land men’s bas­ket­ball team de­feated Ce­cil 76-74 on Sun­day af­ter­noon to win the NJCAA Re­gion XX Di­vi­sion II tour­na­ment. The Hawks ad­vance to the NJCAA Di­vi­sion II na­tional tour­na­ment at Danville Area Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Danville, Ill., March 21 to 25.

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