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Curtain closes on HCC in JuCo tourney

February 18, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Before the Hagerstown Community College men's basketball team has any thoughts of heading to Kansas, it needs to stop in the land of Oz.

That's because the Hawks will be off - possibly with time to see the Wizard - after folding in the final 12 minutes of a 75-67 loss Wednesday to Prince George's in the opening round of the Maryland JuCo Conference tournament at the HCC athletic conference.

That leaves next week's Region XX tournament as the only way for the Hawks to salvage the season. If HCC can reach the tournament final on Feb. 29, it will advance to the districts and be two steps away from going to the nationals in Hutchinson, Kan.

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That's a longshot right now, since HCC's game has gone somewhere over the rainbow. HCC was no place at home on Wednesday as the Owls' long-range shooting down the stretch to pull away made the Hawks look more like the Scarecrow and Tin Man than the lion of a team that started the season at 9-0.

"We didn't execute," HCC coach Kenny Keyes said. "We had no heart and no brains at the end. This team is tired. They have played too many games in too short of time. They are too frail."

At times, HCC's courage could have been questioned, too.

HCC (17-10) came back from nine points down to knot the game at 36-36 at the intermission by making a conscious effort to guard PG's B.J. Miller. Miller hit seven of the Owls' 13 3s last Thursday in an 87-81 win, also at HCC.

The Hawks held a 46-45 lead with 13:00 remaining before it all unraveled, even though Miller didn't score a trey in the entire game.

First, Brandon Jackson was fouled while hitting a 3 for a rare four-point play with 12:46 remaining. Demario McCleary followed with back-to-back treys 2 1/2 minutes later and the Owls were in a commanding 57-50 lead with 10:23 remaining.

"We spent all practice (Tuesday) working on taking 45 (Miller) out of the game after last week," Keyes said. "We did all right. But we were playing a 44 defense, just trying to stop everyone. In the college game, anyone can step out and shoot the 3. We don't have the urgency to go out and stop them."

HCC scratched to within 66-63, but the comeback ended when Antoine Lesesene slipped from under the basket out to the right corner to bury a 3 that put the Owls up by six with 2:11 remaining. The basket put the Hawks into panic mode.

"We were still in it until 40 (Lesesene) move to the outside," Keyes said. "They took (Miller) out of the game and we relaxed. They didn't have their best shooter in and we just relaxed. That's the mentality of this team."

PG finished with eight 3s on Tuesday and a balanced scoring attack as McCleary finished with 14 points, including three treys. Lesesene had 13 and Timothy Contee had 11, including three 3s. HCC was led by Thomas Johnson with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Terrell Kittelberger had 14 points and 16 rebounds. Rexson Kenley finished with 15.

Prince George's, who hosts the rest of the JuCo tournament, plays Allegany on Friday in the quarterfinals while HCC stays home.

"We're tired and not thinking right," Keyes said. "I'm giving them off until Monday because they need time off the court. Now we are at a point where all we have to do is win the next two games to host the district tournament and win the first one to get into it. This team feels like it can beat Garrett (HCC's Feb. 28 opponent) to get there."

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