Trojans hold off Chesapeake in region title game
Furious Skipjack rally falls short at final buzzer, 74-71
HAGERSTOWN On paper, this looked like a title-game mismatch but it played out much differently on the court.
Chesapeake College routed by Allegany College of Maryland in the regular season and facing mismatches seemingly all over the court took the heavily favored Trojans down to the final shot in Sunday’s NJCAA Region XX Division I men’s basketball title game at Hagerstown Community College. The Trojans’ 74-71 win wasn’t sealed until Skipjack Petros Fentahun’s attempt at a game-tying three-pointer hit off the side of the rim at the buzzer.
"We got a good look (at a tying shot) at the end," said Chesapeake head coach John Mappas, who praised his players’ comeback from a 17-point deficit with less than seven minutes remaining. "We didn’t do anything fancy (during the comeback). It was just the kids doing the job and being tough kids. They toughened up a lot as the season went along."
While the Skipjacks who rallied late to beat Garrett College, 65-61, in Saturday’s semifinal round were an inspirational story, in the end they couldn’t find an answer to Allegany forwards George DeGroat (25 points, 11 rebounds) and Ian Grady (18 points, 12 rebounds). That pair helped the Trojans finish with a 41-25 rebounding advantage.
"DeGroat’s their best player," said Mappas. "He’s long, athletic, and just does a great job for them."
Chesapeake (14-15) trailed by 10 points with less than three minutes remaining, but the Skipjacks got back in the game with an 8-0 run fueled by their man-to-man press.
Jimmy Mosser, Davon Heath, and Hubert King who combined for 51 points each turned steals into layups in a 66-second span to pull the Skipjacks within 70-66. Mosser then came up with another steal, setting up two free throws by Heath that made it 70-68 with 1:05 remaining.
"We kept getting in the lanes and taking it (the ball)," said Heath, who had four steals to go along with his 14 points.
"I wanted to start pressing them at the three-minute mark, but I didn’t think we could wait that long," said Mappas, who ordered his team into its press with four minutes remaining. "I thought we could extend our defense the last four minutes, thinking our adrenalin would get us through that extra minute."
With their lead suddenly down to two points, the Trojans (23-7) made things even more interesting by missing 7-of-9 free throws. Foul shots by DeGroat and Bryen Spriggs did stretch Allegany’s lead to 72-68, but Fentahun buried a three-pointer with 6.1 seconds remaining to get the Skipjacks within 72-71.
Chesapeake then fouled Grady, who had missed his previous four free throws, with 4.6 seconds left. Grady made both free throws, but the Skipjacks moved the ball up court quickly enough to give Fentahun a good look from the wing at a tying trey.
Mosser (team-high 19 points) and King (18 points) who were both named to the regional all-tournament team said the Skipjacks came to the tournament fully expecting to contend for the title.
"We knew what we had to do," said Mosser. "We had a very good last week of practice, and we came here and played hard. We just fell short."
"To get this far was a real accomplishment," observed King. "It never crossed my mind (until the final buzzer) that we weren’t going to pull this out."
Brooks Cottman (seven points, five rebounds), Kentrell Ricketts (four points, four assists and only two turnovers while running the offense) and Terrance Wright (six points off the bench) were also significant contributors for the Skipjacks. Harley Brooks (16 points) joined DeGroat and Grady in double figures for Allegany, which had a 36-26 halftime lead.
Notes: Allegany had to stage a late rally of its own to reach Sunday’s title game. The Trojans defeated host Hagerstown, 82-77, with the Hawks suffering a meltdown after building a 19-point lead with less than 10 minutes remaining. . .
The Trojans will host the District III tournament this weekend, with the winner of that four-team event advancing to the NJCAA Division I national tournament.
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