Tournament MVP Hagins helps squad overcame slow start
LA PLATA – First, they had to weather a rocky start. Then, they had to withstand a tenacious comeback by Hagerstown Community College. In the end, however, the Skipjacks completed the NJCAA Division II Region XX women’s basketball tournament in their traditional style – hoisting the championship plaque and cutting down the nets.
Top-seeded Chesapeake College (19-4) defeated the second-seeded Hawks, 69-52, in Monday night’s region title game at the College of Southern Maryland. Tournament MVP Domonique Hagins, all-tournament selection Donae Moguel and Daria Simmons each scored 15 points as the Skipjacks claimed their fourth straight region crown.
More importantly, the region championship allowed Chesapeake to punch its ticket to a fourth consecutive national tournament.
"It feels amazing," said Moguel, a sophomore transfer who also had 15 rebounds in the title game. "This is my first time cutting down the nets and going to nationals. It’s great to be part of something like this."
This isn’t Hagins’ first championship, but she made clear winning titles never gets old.
"It means everything," Hagins said of the opportunity to play in another national tournament. "That’s the goal we’ve had from the beginning of the season."
The goal looked in doubt early on as the Skipjacks went 3:20 before scoring their first field goal and trailed by six points on three separate occasions. Chesapeake, however, regrouped to take a 30-27 lead at the half and then used three key spurts to wrap up the crown.
Clinging to a 30-29 lead early in the second half, Chesapeake tried to gain some separation with a 12-4 run. Simmons started the surge with one three-point play and Moguel ended it with another to give the Skipjacks a 42-33 lead with 13:58 remaining in the game.
The lead grew to double digits (48-38) on Simmons’ transition layup, but Hagerstown responded with a 12-3 spurt of its own. Lana Long capped the Hawk run with a free throw to pull Hagerstown within 51-50 with 7:51 left, but missed her second foul shot with a chance to tie the game.
Unfazed, the Skipjacks simply rebuilt the lead, scoring eight straight points as reserve Carla Marfe played a key role. Marfe started the run by turning a driving layup into a three-point play, then split a pair of free throws after being fouled after a steal to stop Hagerstown’s momentum.
"Carla’s a shooter," said Hagins. "Our team does a lot to get her open. We know she can knock down big shots."
"She came in and she was clutch," Moguel said of Marfe.
"I just wanted to get this win," said Marfe. "Coming off the bench, we just needed that little extra push."
Transition layups by Simmons and Hagins capped the run, giving Chesapeake a 59-50 cushion.
The Skipjacks put the exclamation point on their championship with a 10-0, game-ending run that included four points from Moguel.
The slow-starting Skipjacks trailed 13-7 before putting together a 5-0 streak capped by Alyn Sankar’s short jumper to get into the game.
"I think it was just jitters," Hagins said of the slow start. "We’re playing for something important here. But after the first 10 minutes we were good."
The Hawks answered with a 7-2 run, capped by Taylor Johnson’s trey, but Chesapeake came right back with a 14-5 surge to take the lead for the first time.
Moguel had three layups, two off offensive rebounds, during Chesapeake’s go-ahead run. Natesha Riley’s transition layup off Hagins’ behind-the-back pass gave the Skipjacks a 24-23 lead with 2:35 remaining in the first half.
Hagins buried a jumper for a 26-23 lead before the Hawks twice pulled within a point, the last time on Jaz Spruill’s jumper with 4 seconds left in the half. The aggressive Hagins then beat the Hawks down court for a transition layup right before the buzzer to give Chesapeake its 30-27 halftime advantage.
Turner scored 11 points, but she was the only Hawk to reach double figures.