Skipjack women reach state basketball title game
Attacking style helps Chesapeake earn spot in finals against Allegany
FREDERICK From their very first possession of Saturday’s state women’s basketball tournament semifinal when Deja Acree drove hard off the opening tap for a jumper that put her team ahead to stay the Skipjacks took the game right to Frederick Community College.
"As long as we attacked, I knew we’d be fine," said Chesapeake head coach Damon Nichols, whose second-seeded Skipjacks beat the sixth-seeded Cougars, 68-53. "We have the foot speed to get to the basket."
Shantrel Oliver scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Skipjacks, who will play fourth-seeded Allegany College of Maryland in Sunday’s 1 p.m. Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference tournament title game. Oliver, who scored 12 second-half points to help fend off several Cougar comeback attempts, agreed with Nichols that the Skipjacks’ attacking style was a key to the win.
"Coach said I just had to be aggressive and keep attacking," said Oliver, who also had seven rebounds and four assists. "The second half that’s all I did I kept attacking and the shots started falling."
Chesapeake (20-3) scored the game’s first six points, had a double-digit cushion midway through the first half, and expanded the lead to 27-14 with 3:51 remaining until intermission. The Cougars, however, finished the half on an 8-2 run and pulled within 29-24 when Frederick’s Destinee Jernigan (15 points) hit a transition layup to open the second half.
Frederick (20-8) still trailed by just five points, 44-39, after Jourdan Stanhope (15 points) split a pair of free throws with 11:20 to play. Chesapeake, however, punched its ticket to the state final with a 12-0 run over the next four minutes that gave the Skipjacks a 56-39 cushion. The game-deciding surge included two layups by Denver Clyde (13 points, 11 rebounds), a pair of Oliver jumpers, a beautiful scoop layup by Acree (10 points) driving down the lane, and a Jen Carr jumper.
Ashleigh Jones was the fourth Skipjack in double figures, finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds. Carr had six points, Rose Smith added five points and 10 rebounds, and Emon Heath chipped in two points.
Jones said the Skipjacks were prepared for an energized opponent, with Frederick coming off a 91-78 upset of third-seeded Hagerstown and with the home crowd behind the Cougars.
"We knew it was their house, they would want to win at home, and we had to lay it all out on the line," said Jones.
Smith, who had a team-high four steals, said the Skipjacks were also more aggressive defensively after a spotty first-half defensive effort in Thursday’s quarterfinal win over Cecil College.
"We were really focused on improving our defense today," said Smith.
The Skipjacks also held their own on the boards actually finishing with a 54-51 advantage against a team featuring two of the nation’s top 13 rebounders in Division II in Shakena Williams (11.8 per game) and Stanhope (11.7 per contest).
Williams tied Jernigan and Stanhope with a team-high 15 points for Frederick.
Allegany (20-7) stunned top-seeded Montgomery College Rockville, 72-52, in Saturday’s opening semifinal to reach Sunday’s title game. Rockville (23-5) went undefeated through the conference schedule and swept Allegany, 70-58 and 73-62, in a pair of regular-season meetings.
Chesapeake and Allegany split a pair of regular-season games, with each team winning on its own home court.
The Skipjacks reached 20 wins for the first time in program history Saturday, and will play in the program’s first state title game on Sunday. They will take a school-record nine-game winning streak into the state finals.
"It’s been a great season," said Nichols. "I’m really proud of what the girls have accomplished. They’ve worked hard all season."
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