'Jacks: Great in regular season, even better in playoffs
Chesapeake followed up 22-win regular season with first Region XX championship
WYE MILLS The Skipjacks put together the best regular season in school history.
And they were just getting started.
The legacy of the Chesapeake College 2007-2008 men’s basketball team will be what the Skipjacks accomplished after a 22-3 regular season that set school records for victories and winning percentage. The Skipjacks went 5-2 in the postseason while reaching the state finals and winning the Region XX championship, both for the first time in school history. And the postseason run was accomplished with a seven-player roster after the team lost four players due to academic ineligibility.
"It was a great year," said Chesapeake College head coach John Mappas. "We were 9-1 when we lost those kids, and then went 18-4 the rest of the way. I thought the kids did a great job."
Chesapeake, seeded second in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference state tournament, upheld that seed by winning three rounds on the way to the tournament title game.
The Skipjacks came from behind in the second half to beat both the College of Southern Maryland and Montgomery College/Rockville, then blew out Hagerstown Community College in the semifinals with a 122-point performance. Those victories were made more impressive by the fact that the Skipjacks lost to both Rockville and Hagerstown in the regular season.
Freshman swingman Ty Newman, the Easton High graduate who scored a career-high 32 points in the win over Hagerstown, said the Skipjacks enjoyed exceeding people’s expectations.
"We accomplished a lot with just seven players more than people outside of the team thought we could accomplish," said Newman. "Coming in second in states and winning the region backed up what we accomplished in the regular season. It was a fun ride for all of us."
Chesapeake played undefeated and heavily favored Cecil College even for almost three quarters of the state title game trailing only 62-61 with 13 minutes remaining before being overwhelming by the Seahawks. The Skipjacks, however, bounced back to beat both Allegany College of Maryland and Garrett College to win the Region XX title the very next weekend.
While the Skipjacks quickly exited the District 3 tournament 95-59 losers to Globe Institute of Technology in the first round Mappas said that loss did nothing to diminish the team’s postseason accomplishments.
"Other than the Globe game and the last 10 minutes of the Cecil game, I thought we played very well in the postseason," said Mappas, who has a 114-63 record in six seasons at Chesapeake and a 214-86 record in 10 seasons as a JuCo head coach. "Overall, it was a very satisfying year."
The team’s strong showing led to a string of individual honors. Sophomore center Andrew Lee who averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Skipjacks was named to the all-state and all-region first teams, all-state and all-region tournament teams, and was selected NJCAA Division I Region XX Tournament Most Valuable Player.
Sophomore guard Preston Faulk was named second-team all-state and all-region, freshman guard Aubin Reeves was part of the Region XX all-tournament team, and Newman was selected for the all-state and all-region tournament teams.
"Those honors were recognition of the roles those kids played in our season," said Mappas.
Mappas said several of the Skipjacks’ four sophomores Lee, Faulk, Terrance Wright, and Burton Moody may play at the four-year college level next year. He said Lee is "generating a lot of interest Division I, Division II and NAIA," while Mappas said Faulk "could excel at the Division III level."
The obvious next question is, what do the Skipjacks do for an encore?
"It would be nice if we could find another kid like Andrew Lee, but those kind of kids come once-in-a-lifetime," said Mappas, who indicated finding some players who can give the Skipjacks an inside presence is a top priority.
The other sophomores will also be hard to replace, according to Mappas.
"Preston is one of the hardest-working kids you will find. He came to practice and worked hard every day," said Mappas. "Terrance was another player who just played hard, while Burton came up with huge performances (18 and 17 points in consecutive contests) in two big games when we really needed wins."
Mappas, who spent 31 years teaching high school math and strongly emphasizes academics, said the unusually high number of players who didn’t make the grade academically needs to be rectified.
"We’ve got to keep our kids eligible, not just for the program’s sake but for the kids’ sake," said Mappas.
Mappas is already working toward next season. Despite not returning from the district tournament until the wee hours of Sunday morning, Mappas was back in his office on Monday. He will be at the high school state Final Four this weekend recruiting.
"We’ll start bringing in recruits in April," said Mappas, noting a strong recruiting year is the first key to a successful region title defense next winter.
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