Skipjacks fall to unbeaten Cecil in state finals
Depth, explosiveness of top-ranked team too much for Chesapeake
FREDERICK For 27 minutes, Chesapeake College battled the top men’s basketball team in the nation to a virtual draw Monday night in the finals of the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference tournament.
From that point on, however, Cecil College (30-0) demonstrated why it is the top NJCAA Division II team in the country.
The top-seeded Seahawks, holding a nervous 62-61 lead, used their depth and offensive explosiveness to take command of the championship game. Eleven straight points finally provided the Seahawks with some breathing room, and a 13-2 run broke the game wide open as Cecil cruised to a 106-82 win over the second-seeded Skipjacks (25-4).
"We know as long as we continue to throw in waves of people, somebody’s going to get on a roll offensively," said Cecil head coach Bill Lewit, whose Seahawks won their fifth straight state tournament title.
"The other difference was our height advantage," said Lewit, whose team outrebounded the much smaller Skipjacks, 64-33. "I thought we could exploit that advantage with our post feeds and offensive rebounds."
Chesapeake head coach John Mappas said the rebounding disparity was the key to the game.
"The whole game they just killed us on the boards," said Mappas, whose team had its 11-game winning streak snapped. "They just wore us out. They physically controlled the boards, neutralized Andrew (Lee) inside, and other than Ty (Newman) nobody could hit a shot."
Cecil’s inside players put up big numbers in the title-game win. Kevin Palmer (23 points, nine rebounds), Antonio Haymon (16 points, 15 rebounds), and Jabril Bailey (23 points, eight rebounds) combined for 62 points. When the Seahawks needed outside scoring, tournament Most Valuable Player Rob Lowery (game-high 24 points) was more than happy to provide it.
For all of Cecil’s advantages, the scrappy Skipjacks trailed by just a point at the half (44-43) and were still that close with 13 minutes remaining.
Newman (18 points, 4-for-9 3-pointers) scored 14 first-half points, and added seven more in the first six minutes of the second half as the Skipjacks stayed close. Chesapeake also got a boost off the bench from Terrance Wright, who scored all six of his points in a 57-second span of the second half, including two free throws that pulled the Skipjacks within 62-61.
That, however, was the end of the highlights as far as the Skipjacks were concerned.
Bailey scored off an offensive rebound and an inside layup during Cecil’s 11-0 run, which also included a 3-pointer and two free throws from Lowery as the Seahawks built a 73-61 lead. Palmer, Lowery and Josh Bennett then each drained a 3-pointer in the 13-2 spurt that gave Cecil a 95-72 lead and essentially sealed the Seahawks’ championship.
The Skipjacks, who shot 63 percent from the field in a 122-111 semifinal victory over Hagerstown Community College, shot 41 percent from the field and 27 percent from the three-point line.
Afterwards, Mappas pointed to Cecil’s strong play rather than any deficiencies by his Skipjacks.
"Sometimes you’ve just got to give the other team credit when they’re good," said Mappas.
Lee (18 points, eight rebounds), Aubin Reeves (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals) and Preston Faulk (11 points) joined Newman in double figures for the Skipjacks.
The Skipjacks reached the finals by beating two teams Montgomery College/Rockville and Hagerstown Community College that beat them during the regular season, but Mappas said he wasn’t surprised his seven-man team played its way into the title game.
"We were 22-3 going into the playoffs, so I expected us to make a run to the finals," said Mappas. "I didn’t think we were better than Cecil, but we should have made a run to the finals. We have talented players."
At least the Skipjacks won’t have to deal with Cecil in this weekend’s regional tournament. Chesapeake is the top seed in the NJCAA Region XX Division I tournament, while Cecil is the top seed in Division II.
Mappas said preparations for the regional tournament will begin at mid-week.
"I’m giving the players Tuesday off and then we’re right back at it on Wednesday," said Mappas.
Notes: Lee and Newman were both named to the all-tournament team.
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