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HCC tries to be Survivor on region island

March 03, 2001

HCC tries to be Survivor on region island



By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

This is it. The Hagerstown Community College basketball team is mired in its own version of Survivor.

Today is the Hawks' challenge. They play Garrett Community College in the Region XX Division I semifinal. A win gives HCC immunity for at least another week. A loss ... and it is voted off the JuCo island for the rest of the 2001 tournament season.

It's pretty simple. It's all or nothing for the Hawks when the play Garrett at 8 p.m., at the HCC athletic complex. If they win, they get a Region XX championship date with nationally rated Allegany on Sunday at 4. And with it they would earn an automatic invitation to next weekend's four-team district tournament, played at the home site of the champion.

At least it sounds simple. At least until one remembers that HCC had one of those Garrett-Allegany doubleheader weekends on Jan. 20-21. They lost to both games, in overtime to Garrett and by a landslide to Allegany.

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"(Those games) let us know where we stood," said HCC coach Jim Brown. "We had to be ready to play. We lost to Garrett by two in overtime and Garrett lost to Allegany by 12. We lost to Allegany by a bunch. But for now, we can't think past Garrett."

If the Hawks can't get past Garrett, there won't be an Allegany rematch. It's as simple as that. But in HCC's favor is the 10-game winning streak the Hawks have been on since the lost weekend and the 13-2 mark they carry since losing five players to academic woes.

"Sometimes you have to take a step back to see what you have accomplished," Brown said. "We are 26-4 and played probably the toughest out-of-conference schedule and travel in the country. We only lost two games in the second semester ... and they were both within 11 hours of each other."

HCC has been forced to play a different style of game to get to this tribal council meeting. The trademark pressing defense has been shelved for more of a halfcourt swarming style. The Hawks have slowed down slightly, looking inside to Jerome Goodman and Gibront Gaddy, among others, to enhance their streak outside shooting.

"We can't overpower anyone, but we keep finding a way to win," Brown said. "Actually, with the number of close games that we have played through the season, it's unbelieveable the number of those games we have won."

The heart of HCC's attack revolves around point guard Eric Branham, who is enhanced by the play of shooting guard Brandon DeShields. Branham leads Hawks' scorers with a 15.3 points per game average while DeShields scores at a 13.5 point clip. Corey Tabron is averaging 12.7 points per game.

And ironically, both DeShields and Branham have delivered 166 assists, 5.5 per game.

"Eric's performance is where it should be," Brown said. "The guy who has played the biggest part for us is Brandon DeShields. Eric has had 13 less turnovers, but that's a sophomore vs. freshman thing. But if you look at the other stats ... every player on this team knows his role."

HCC will face Garrett in the last game of a five-game day at the athletic complex. The Region XX Division II and Division III tournaments will play their semifinals, starting at noon before what could be a very physical Garrett-HCC matchup.

"We have two evenly matched teams," Brown said of Garrett. "It's a typical Dennis Gibson-coached team that plays hard and plays well. But we weren't at our best the last time we faced them."

If HCC can bring out it's best, its season will last at least two more games.

"I think the position that we have to take is that the rest of the year depends on creating as a positive (tonight). That will give us another game and another week of playing. If we get to Allegany, we have to play on a different level. If we are able to keep it close, anything can happen."

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