Goal-oriented Skipjacks finish unbeaten at home
Smith scores career-high 23; winning streak reaches 12 games
WYE MILLS The Chesapeake College women’s basketball team is nearly running out of goals to achieve.
An undefeated home season became the latest goal to get checked off the list, thanks to Thursday’s 81-59 victory over Potomac State College in the Skipjacks’ regular-season finale. Freshman forward Rose Smith combined a career-high 23 points with a team-high 13 rebounds as the Skipjacks (23-3) finished 8-0 at home and extended their school-record winning streak to 12 games.
"Rose was going to work tonight," said Chesapeake point guard Deja Acree, who handed out a team-high six assists. "She got us going tonight. When people saw how she was playing, that’s when everybody else decided to step up."
Smith said the undefeated home season was a huge incentive for the Skipjacks to beat Potomac State.
"That was a big deal for us," said Smith, whose team easily shattered the previous school record for victories (15) on the way to the program’s first state tournament championship. "We have a lot of goals, and one of them was making sure we went undefeated at home."
"I’m happy for the girls," said Chesapeake head coach Damon Nichols, whose team also set a school record for conference victories this season. "This is a special year. Any coach would be happy with this year. A lot of records got set. Now we’ve got to get ready to go after the big prize."
By the "big prize," Nichols means next week’s NJCAA Division II Region XX tournament, which also serves as a national tournament qualifier. Winning the region championship and advancing to the national tournament would allow the Skipjacks to check off the biggest goal on their "to-do" list.
"That’s the one goal we really want to achieve," said Smith.
Chesapeake, which finished 16-2 against Region XX opposition, is likely to be the region’s top seed in a balanced field that will include state finalist Allegany College of Maryland and Hagerstown Community College. Chesapeake is 2-1 against Allegany, including a victory in the state tournament finals, but the Skipjacks lost the only game they played against Hagerstown this season.
While Smith shouldered the load early against Potomac State, she ended up getting plenty of help. Denver Clyde (20 points, nine rebounds, team-high five steals), Ashleigh Jones (12 points, five rebounds, three steals), Shantrel Oliver (12 points), and Jen Carr (10 points, four rebounds) all reached double figures.
The game was tight for much of the first half as Ali St. Van (14 points) hit a trio of 3-pointers and Brandi Robertson scored eight of her 14 points before the break for the Catamounts (13-9). Chesapeake, however, used a late surge fueled by the Skipjacks’ full-court press to open up a 38-24 lead at intermission.
Ashley Hines scored 19 of her game-high 24 points in the second half to try to spark a Catamount comeback, but the rest of her team totaled just 16 second-half points.
"Our girls played hard. We’re just not very deep and they get tired easily," said PSC head coach Jim Walton. "And when we got tired, they (Chesapeake) went on a run. There were really just a few big swings that made the difference."
The only negative notes for the Skipjacks were two injuries, which Nichols’ eight-player squad could hardly afford. Oliver hit her head during a loose-ball scramble late in the first half, and reserve Katara Pressley sprained her left ankle in the second half. Neither player returned to the game.
"This was a football game," said Nichols after a game that featured 38 fouls, 24 committed by the Catamounts. "We made it through this game, despite some hard fouls and hard picks. We just kept our composure and kept driving to the basket."
Nichols said he expected Oliver to be back at practice Friday, and was happy the Skipjacks have a week off until the regional tournament to give Pressley time to heal.
"We’ve got to nurse these injuries," said Nichols. "We’re going to come in tomorrow with a light practice, just a shoot-around, and try to get ready for next week."
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