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ICC makes self at home at HCC, national tournament

March 16, 2000|By BOB PARASILITI

If the Hagerstown Community College Hawks are the queens of the hardwood at the school's athletic complex, Illinois Central Community College could be considered the facility's foreign ministers.

cont. from sports page

Like so many times before, the Cougars made HCC their home away from home. After all, ICC has won four of the eight national titles contested here.

ICC held court on HCC's court again Wednesday, this time dispatching Lake Michigan College 69-38 in the first round of NJCAA Women's National Basketball Championships.

The tournament's two-time defending champions made a statement ... just how loud is a matter of who you talk to. But still, it was a statement that left Lake Michigan muttering to itself and could quite possibly have the rest of the tournament's field talking among themselves.

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"It wasn't really a statement," said sophomore Natalie Chambers, who led the Cougars with 19 points. "We are the defending national champs and we know we are wearing a target. But we know what we have to do."

Keep winning for starters.

The Cougars own the most wins on HCC's floor, other than the Hawks themselves. And ICC is doing it this time with just three sophomores returning from last year's championship team.

"I don't think this says anything," Illinois Central coach Lorene Ramsey said. "In this tournament, you play well one day and the next, you meet up with someone who has found something to give you trouble."

Spoken like a true coach.

Still, ICC showed some athletic play and fastbreaking ability that will make the Cougars tough to corral. They also play a little defense, which had Lake Michigan pressing to beat the shot clock many a time.

"We played very well," Ramsey said. "We played good man defense and passed well. But Lake Michigan is a good team that we had played before. We were concerned about their quickness. Then there was a point when we were throwing one pass and taking a shot. That's not how we play well. Basketball is a game of surges and sometimes the motor gets stuck."

When the motor got back in gear, the Cougars pulled steadily away to the 31-point win. That's little consolation to Ramsey and a boost to Chambers.

"We know that Penn Valley (Mo.) is tough," Ramsey said of ICC"s next opponent. "We're out here playing and they are watching us and resting. That gives them an advantage."

"It's good to have a big win," Chambers said. "It will boost our confidence. It is good to start with a big win, but we still have to concentrate and go game by game."

Now, ICC is in the 67 percent of the field that can still win the national championship after winning that first game. Then there is a little matter about winning the title for the third straight time.

About the only other team from Illinois that could boast such an honor is the Chicago Bulls, and they accomplished the feat twice in the NBA.

"We're not interested in the three-peat," Ramsey said. "We're only worried about a one-peat right now."

But then again ...

"To win the championship three times in a row would be a record at ICC," Chambers said. "The school has won it twice (in a row) twice. No one has done it three times."

Now that would be a statement.

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