Skipjack women win state hoop crown
First for program is first undisputed state title in any sport in 31 years
FREDERICK In a season of firsts, this one was special.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Ashleigh Jones scored a game-high 26 points as the second-seeded Skipjacks held off fourth-seeded Allegany College of Maryland, 75-66, Sunday afternoon to win Chesapeake College’s first-ever women’s basketball state championship.
The Skipjacks (21-3) won Chesapeake’s first undisputed Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference title in any sport since claiming the 1981 women’s softball crown. Chesapeake also extended the program’s school-record winning streak to 10 games as the Skipjacks followed head coach Damon Nichols’ carefully crafted game plan and seemingly never lost their composure in what several players said was the biggest game of their playing careers.
"We knew they had three or four girls who could shoot ’threes’ and we had to stay outside and contest every shot," said Jones after the Skipjacks held Allegany to 5-of-17 shooting from the 3-point line, including a combined 4-for-13 by Trojan sharp-shooters Taylor Siggers (team-high 23 points) and Brittany Taylor (18 points).
"They have two really good 3-point shooters," added Jen Carr, who provided Chesapeake with a huge spark off the bench by going 3-for-3 from the field with nine points and seven rebounds. "Deja (Acree), Shantrel (Oliver) and Ashleigh did an excellent job defensively on them."
Chesapeake also helped itself with a hot shooting hand. The Skipjacks made 19-of-35 field-goal attempts in the first half, including a torrid 6-for-11 from 3-point range, while building a 45-37 advantage and finished the game shooting an even 50 percent from the field.
"We shot about 54 percent from the field in the first half," noted Nichols. "I just told them, ’Take your time, get a good look at the basket, and don’t rush your shot.’ "
"I just think Chesapeake shot the ball really well today," said Allegany head coach Garett Sherman, whose Trojans were making their fifth straight title-game appearance.
Denver Clyde, who joined Jones on the all-tournament squad, produced yet another double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds), helping the Skipjacks to a 42-35 advantage on the boards. Oliver also scored 15 points while point guard Acree (seven points, three assists) had no turnovers in 32 minutes as the Skipjacks finished with just six turnovers compared to 12 for Allegany.
Despite their hot shooting, strong rebounding, and aggressive defense of the 3-point line, the Skipjacks still had their hands full for much of Sunday’s game. Oliver buried two treys while Jones and Clyde each added a 3-pointer as the Skipjacks blew out to a 21-11 lead, but Allegany responded with a 20-10 run of its own to create a 31-31 tie on Siggers’ loose-ball lay-in with 4:25 left in the first half.
Facing one of the game’s pivotal moments, the Skipjacks answered back. Clyde regained the lead for Chesapeake with another 3-pointer, and Oliver hit another trey after Allegany (20-8) had pulled within 36-35. Oliver’s 3-pointer started a 9-2 run that included a pair of baskets by Jones to give the Skipjacks their 45-37 halftime lead.
"We were just feeling it," Jones said of the Skipjacks’ hot-shooting first half. "We were in a rhythm."
Allegany twice tied the game in the early minutes of the second half, the second time on a Madi Nightengale free throw with 15:04 remaining that made it 48-48. Oliver put the Skipjacks back in front to stay by hitting the second of two free throws and getting a tough layup in traffic. Jones then drove past two defenders for a transition layup that gave Chesapeake a 53-48 cushion.
The Trojans kept the pressure up by hitting some big shots of their own, including consecutive layups by Monique Rhodes and Taylor that pulled Allegany within 61-59 with 5:15 remaining. That’s when Carr took over for the Skipjacks.
Carr scored six points in a 10-3 run, including a baby hook that started the run, a loose-ball lay-in off an offensive rebound, and two free throws with 2:19 remaining that capped the surge while stretching the lead to 71-62. Then, over the last 93 seconds, she rebounded two missed free throws by Acree to give the Skipjacks critical possessions and dove successfully for a loose ball to set up her final point from the foul line.
"Jen had three or four really crucial rebounds for us," said Jones.
"Coach told us any loose ball and he wanted to see us on the floor," said Carr, who rebounded from an 0-for-5 shooting effort in Chesapeake’s playoff opener against Cecil to go 6-for-8 over the final two games.
"I was a little nervous for the tournament I was thinking too much," said Carr of her slow post-season start. "But I was helping out in other ways, starting to feel more comfortable, and then my shot started falling."
"Jen came up huge for us," said Nichols, who said he talked with Carr after the Cecil game. "I told her, ’You’re a sophomore keep your composure and don’t get frustrated. You don’t have to score to help this team.’ "
Notes: Rose Smith, who sparked the Skipjacks to a come-from-behind win over Cecil in the quarterfinals with 14 points and four rebounds, had three points and three rebounds in Sunday’s finals. She averaged 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds for the tournament. . .
With the NJCAA Division II Region XX tournament not starting until March 9th, Chesapeake will play two more regular-season games in a tune-up for that tourney. Local fans will have two chances to see the state champs this Wednesday at 5 p.m. against Cecil College and March 1st at 6 p.m. against Potomac State College of West Virginia University.
Both the Cecil and Potomac State games could have Region XX tournament implications.
Chesapeake and Allegany should have the top two seeds, with the Skipjacks’ 2-1 record in head-to-head matchups in their favor when the tournament field is seeded. Sunday’s win in the state finals could also play a key role in seeding since it was a neutral-court game. Previously, each team had won on its own home court.
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