College of Southern Maryland men's basketball wins Region XX tournament title
By TED BLACK firstname.lastname@example.org
During a weekend in which upsets were the norm and not the exception, the College of Southern Maryland men's basketball team emerged as the sixth seed to capture the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Region XX Division II Tournament at Garrett College in McHenry with a 76-74 victory over Cecil Community College on Sunday.
CSM (14-16 overall) headed into the tournament having been idle three weeks since a 94-76 setback at Allegany College on Feb. 17. The Hawks had won their previous contest, 103-56 over Thomas Nelson College (Va.), a victory that ended a four-game skid after CSM had won four of five outings and three straight contests in late February.
In most postseason tournaments, such as the upcoming NCAA Division I men's basketball championship, often referred to simply as March Madness, the outcome often reflects a genuine hierarchy as higher seeds tend to advance much further than lower ones. But the Region XX tournament offered a complete contrast to those expectations as CSM started and completed the unlucky scenario in which the lower seed won five of the seven games.
The sixth-seeded CSM men promptly kicked the tournament off Friday with a 96-63 victory over third-seeded CCBC-Dundalk. Fellow lower seeds Frederick Community College and Cecil followed with upset victories as the seventh and fifth seeds, respectively, until top seed and host Garrett ended the brief madness with an overtime victory.
"For us to have been off for three weeks and still come out and play with that much energy and that much focus was a credit to our players and our coaches," said CSM head coach Alan Hoyt, a Great Mills High School graduate. "That first game was the only one I was worried about. You hate to practice that long and then get sent home after one game. But we dominated the game and that gave us a chance to relax and watch the other teams."
CSM owned a 43-28 halftime lead over CCBC-Dundalk and the Hawks did not let up in the second half. David Francis led the way with 18 points and 12 rebounds and Anthony Williams (a North Point High School graduate from Waldorf) added 12 points and 11 assists and Jordan Battle (a Thomas Stone High School graduate from Waldorf had 12 points, as did Dominic Espeleta (a Westlake High School graduate from Waldorf).
Levon Randall (a Thomas Stone High School graduate from Waldorf) scored 11 points off the bench, while Antonio Tavares (a Huntingtown High School graduate from Chesapeake Beach) added nine, while Trevon Porter (a Great Mills High School graduate from Lexington Park) and Sean Scott (a St. Charles High School graduate from Waldorf) had eight each. Ryan Stearns (a Leonardtown High School graduate from Leonardtown) had six.
CSM edged Frederick 75-71 in the first Region XX semifinal Saturday, which was followed by Cecil's upset of Garrett.
Sunday's championship game was a close contest from the outset as neither team led by more than seven points in the first half or more than four points in the second. Battle nailed two free throws with 5.4 seconds remaining to give CSM the lead and eventual victory. Francis was named the Region XX tournament Most Valuable Player and Scott was also named the the all-tournament team.
"We've been on the other end of close losses like that," Hoyt said. "A few years ago we were up one point with five seconds left and could not close it out. We saw Cecil emerge last year as a lower seed and this year it came down to us and them and fortunately when Jordan hit those two clutch free throws we were able to get a defensive stop to win it. It was a total team effort."
With the Region XX title under them, the CSM men can now set their sights on the NJCAA Division II national tournament at Danville Area Community College in Danville, Ill., March 21 to 25. Unlike March Madness, the NJCAA Division II tournament is double-elimination and only the top eight teams are seeded with the other eight seeds being determined by a random draw.
"I wish we had three weeks to get ready for every tournament, but we'll spend plenty of time in the gym all this week and probably on Saturday and Sunday, too," Hoyt said. "Then we'll leave late Sunday night and get there on Monday. It's a double-elimination format, so we'll have at least two games and maybe we can be out there for four or five. We are going out there with the only team with a losing record, but that doesn't mean anything now."