Focus on Sports
Skipjacks miss Lowery, misfire from line

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

WYE MILLS – The Skipjacks missed their leading scorer – and way too many free throws.

That pretty much summed up Chesapeake College´s 65-59 men´s basketball loss to Howard Community College Tuesday night in the first round of the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference state tournament. The Skipjacks (17-9) struggled offensively playing without guard Rob Lowery – who was serving a one-game suspension – and compounded that problem by missing 18-of-37 free throws.

"We did what we wanted to do, except we just didn´t finish at the foul line," said Chesapeake College head coach Dale Becraft. "If we had made a few more free throws, it might have been a totally different story."

The free-throw misses were especially costly in the second half when eighth-seeded Chesapeake was battling back from a 41-30 halftime deficit.

The Skipjacks pulled within three points on three occasions, the last time on a pair of Joe Fletcher free throws that made it 57-54 with 3:13 remaining. Chesapeake, however, missed seven straight free throws at one point in the second-half comeback and finished the second half 10-for-24 from the line.

Ninth-seeded Howard (12-12) tried to take control of the game early, using a 12-0 spurt to build a 22-9 advantage. Donte Ridley (21 points) and Andre Cooper (17 points) each had a basket and two free throws during the run, which also included Deshell Grade´s transition layup and a second-chance basket by Darius Dunning (14 points).

The Skipjacks tried to answer, pulling within 30-23 on a Jamarl Glen free throw with 4:02 remaining in the first half. Howard, however, responded with an 8-0 run, which Dunning started and finished with three-point shots.

Howard head coach Randolph Edison said Dunning´s first-half offense was a key for the Dragons, who used a combined 57 points from Ridley and Cooper to claim a 90-81 win over Chesapeake last Friday night.

"They (Chesapeake) were in a triangle-and-two to try to hold down 15 (Ridley) and 21 (Cooper)," said Edison. "We needed a couple of other guys to make some shots and pull them out of that zone."

After Chesapeake once again pulled within single digits on a Fletcher three-pointer, Cooper finished the half with a buzzer-beating trey to give Howard a 41-30 cushion.

The Skipjacks opened the second with an 8-0 run which Fletcher (21 points) started with a three-pointer and ended with a spinning jumper that pulled Chesapeake within 41-38.

That´s when the Skipjacks´ free-throw miseries began. Fletcher, Chris Brown, Mike Nichols, and Keith Smothers each missed a pair – and all the misses came with Chesapeake trailing by six points or less.

Fletcher then hit a pair, pulling the Skipjacks within 55-51 with 3:59 remaining, and Brown sank the second of two shots 22 seconds later to get Chesapeake within three points. The Skipjacks then nearly got a turnover using their press, but Grade eventually scored on a layup that made it 57-52.

Fletcher hit a pair of free throws to once again get Chesapeake within three points, but Cooper responded with a back-breaking three-pointer for a 60-54 lead with 2:41 remaining. The Skipjacks couldn´t get any closer than five points the rest of the way.

The Skipjacks got a big lift from Robby Brisco, who scored 14 points, but Glen was held to eight – less than half his season´s average – while Nichols and Smothers combined for only six points.

Becraft said he was proud of the way his team played without Lowery, suspended one game for his ejection from last Friday´s Howard contest.

"We had guys playing in positions they hadn´t played all year long and they were still fighting," said Becraft. "That´s all you can ask for."

The Skipjacks are off until next week´s NJCAA Division II Region XX championship tournament, which will take place at Frederick Community College.

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