Athletics News

Men's Basketball

Skipjacks to open regional against Catonsville
Top-seeded Cecil is strong favorite to claim tourney crown

FREDERICK – There are few prospects for easy games once you hit tourney time.

This year’s Region XX Division II men’s basketball championship tournament illustrates that point. If fourth-seeded Chesapeake College can find a way to eliminate fifth-seeded CCBC-Catonsville in a Friday afternoon quarterfinal, the Skipjacks’ reward will be a semifinal contest against the top-ranked team in the nation.

Top-seeded Cecil Community College (27-2) has won 23 straight games and went undefeated in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference regular season. The Seahawks, who also easily won last week’s state tournament, play the winner of Friday’s 2 p.m. Chesapeake-Catonsville game in a 5 p.m. semifinal Saturday here at Frederick Community College.

Chesapeake College head coach Dale Becraft prefers to emphasize what he sees as the silver lining with respect to the tournament draw.

"If Cecil’s going to get knocked off, it’s going to be in an early round where they may be kind of looking ahead to the finals," said Becraft.

Of course, Catonsville (13-15) is the immediate challenge for the Skipjacks (17-9). The Cardinals have gone 12-9 since a 1-6 start, and rallied from a 16-point deficit to beat Chesapeake in overtime earlier this season. They are also coming off a strong state tournament performance, including a quarterfinal upset of second-seeded Prince George’s Community College.

"They’re playing really well right now. It’s going to be a challenge," Becraft said of the quarterfinal match-up. Randy Allen, the conference’s ninth-leading scorer at 14.5 points per game, hit six three-pointers and finished with 24 points in the Cardinals’ overtime win against Chesapeake. Kevin Palmer, who scored a game-high 26 points in that contest, and Amir Hakim, a 6-foot-4 forward/center who shot nearly 57 percent from the field this season, are other Cardinals to watch.

"Allen was the one who really hurt us from the three-point line. He hit four down the stretch and we didn’t answer," said Becraft. "Kevin Palmer hit a lot of perimeter jumpers and capitalized at the line (7-of-9 in overtime) when we were trying to come back."

Becraft said he knows what the Skipjacks will have to do in order to be successful against Catonsville.

"We’ll be all right if we play good perimeter defense, play an inside-oriented game offensively that helps us get to the line, and then make a good percentage of our free throws," said Becraft.

The Skipjacks come into the regional tournament without a lot of momentum. They lost to Howard Community College in their regular-season finale, then turned around and lost to the Dragons again in the first round of the state tournament.

Chesapeake, however, should be buoyed by the return of freshman point guard Rob Lowery. Lowery is returning from a one-game suspension, served in the state tournament, after being ejected from the Skipjacks’ regular-season finale.

Lowery is second in the conference in assists (8.2 per game), sixth in scoring (17.2 points per game), and eighth in free-throw percentage (75.7 percent).

"Rob’s been the floor leader all year. It’s a big lift getting him back," said Becraft, who will also have Joe Fletcher, Keith Smothers, and a relatively healthy Mike Nichols to help with outside scoring.

Jamarl Glen is a key to the inside game Becraft wants to play. Glen is seventh in the state in scoring (16.6 points per game) and ninth in field-goal percentage (53.0 percent).

Glen will look for inside help from Robby Brisco, who had 14 points in the state tournament loss to Howard. Chris Brown and Brandon Caldwell will also need to play roles inside against the smaller Cardinals.

Becraft said his team is coming off a couple of spirited practices.

"The guys realize what’s at stake here," said Becraft. "We’re in a one-and-done scenario, and our guys want to keep playing."

While the Skipjacks are hoping for a semifinal date with Cecil, which earned a first-round bye, four other teams will be battling in the other half of the seven-team draw. Second-seeded Prince George’s plays seventh-seeded Baltimore City Community College Friday at 4 p.m., while third-seeded host Frederick Community College takes on sixth-seeded Howard Community College at 6 p.m. The two winners play Saturday’s 7 p.m. semifinal, with the title game slated for Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Region XX Division I and Division III championships are also being played at Frederick Community College. In the three-team Division I pool, second-seeded Garrett College plays third-seeded Hagerstown Community College Saturday at 3 p.m., with the winner facing top-seeded Allegany College of Maryland Sunday at 3 p.m.

Pennsylvania’s Community College of Allegheny County is the top seed in the Division III tournament.

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