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HCC ends 'journey' faithfully

March 13, 2001

HCC ends 'journey' faithfully



By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

The journey.

That is the way coach Jim Brown refers to every Hagerstown Community College basketball season. It makes it sound like a collection of learning destinations as opposed to a group of games.

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On Sunday, the journey came to an abrupt end. It was two whistlestops later that most would have thought, but it was still an abrupt end.

HCC bowed to Allegany 92-71 in the finals of the Northeast District III finals at Trojan Square Garden. For the Trojans, it gave them another trip to the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., which was a forgone conclusion.

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For the Hawks, the trip ends where it started, in Hagerstown, but HCC could be much better off for the experience.

"I'd rather evaluate the journey instead of the game," Brown said. "I just told them in the locker room that I know they are disappointed, but to win 28 games this season is an unbelievable accomplishment. They could be the third or fourth winningest team we've had here. They were great to work with."

The Hawks finished 28-6 in a season that opened with cautious promise, fell to near disaster after losing five players to academic problems and ended with a almost shocking run that left HCC one step short of heading to the national tournament.

"We were undersized and we still won game after game that was very close," Brown said. "I have never had a team that was this undersized. I could not get any more out of this team."

Three of HCC's losses came in the form of routs to Allegany. The Hawks also stumbled at nationally ranked Southern Idaho, to Motlow, Tenn. - the day before facing and beating nationally ranked Aquinas, Tenn., in Memphis - and an overtime game to Garrett, the day before the first loss to Allegany.

HCC was headed by point guard Eric Branham. The Hawks were his team to run and control, coming in as the No. 9 ranked point guard in junior college. He was a dynamic focal point for HCC, but he needed help to succeed.

As usual, HCC was a guard-oriented team with Corey Tabron, Brandon DeShields and Bayi Handy working with Branham in the backcourt. Tabron was a returnee for the Hawks, who showed flashes of brilliance while DeShields proved to be explosive from 3-point range. Branham, Tabron and Handy are all headed to Division I schools.

The frontcourt was a work in progress that improved steadily during the season. Jerome Goodman, Mark Jennings and Derek Hoffman all improved as more playing time became available after January's academic purge. Girbront Gaddy proved to be a valuable scorer inside.

The combination of the two halves gave HCC some flexibility, but it was still a team that was forced to live and die by the 3-point shot on most occasions, especially against power teams like Allegany.

"No matter what we do at the districts, I have to be satisfied with this club," Brown said before the tournament.

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