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HCC's Palmer gets 600th career win

January 21, 2012|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown Community College women's basketball coach Marlys Palmer earned her 600th career win Saturday afternoon.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

COLUMBIA, Md. — Marlys Palmer was holding out for a hero.

Someone had to come to the rescue. The Hagerstown Community College women’s basketball team was lost in the moment and down to the final seconds of completing something big.

Yolanda Pinkcett was just one of a whole posse of heroes for the Hawks as she stole the ball under the basket with 5 seconds remaining and scored a basket on Saturday to lift HCC to a 61-58 victory over Howard for more than just a run-of-the-mill win,

For Palmer, it was the 951st time she walked along the sidelines as HCC’s coach. It was the 600th time she left them as a victor, and she did it in a fashion that has become all too familiar.

“We are 18-1, and I would say that 10-12 of our games have gone this way,” Palmer said with a nervous grin on her face after completing a milestone that was 33 years in the making. “This just makes you appreciate that you have a team that can do this. We have a team that is so resilient.”

Palmer worked the sidelines in her trademark fashion, conducting her team like a maestro while moving her players through movements. She added a little body English to help the Hawks get through a tough challenge from a Howard team that sits in last place in the Maryland JuCo Conference standings.

She worked very hard to put her personal history moment on the backburner, at least for now.

The Hawks (18-1, 7-1) bolted to a game-high 48-32 lead with 11:55 remaining when Victoria Broadwater canned 1 of 2 free throws. What looked to be a runaway suddenly shifted into full retreat mode.

Howard (1-17, 0-8) outscored HCC 24-9 over the next 11 minutes to get within 57-56 with 55 seconds remaining.

“The closer it got to the middle of the second half, the tension of the moment got to us,” Palmer said. “We were making mistakes and playing people that were in foul trouble. A couple of key things happened — Ashley Smothers and Katie Sprecher made steals and Alessandra Flores hit a 3. These are the types of games where you get a lot of heroes.”

The biggest one became Pinkcett.

Jasmine Reynolds missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with HCC holding a 59-58 lead with 7.2 seconds left. Howard’s Parris Preston came up with the rebound and turned to fire and outlet pass.

Pinkcett closed in and took the ball from Preston’s hands — her only steal of the game — and forced in the basket to seal the marquee victory for Palmer.

“I didn’t realize what I had done,” Pinkcett said. “We were one up and I said, ‘We can’t let (a comeback) happen.’ I saw the ball and grabbed and put up some ridiculous shot like Superman and it went in.

“I wasn’t thinking about what the victory meant. I was just praying, ‘Please go in’ and then I realized what happened.”

After the final seconds ticked away, Palmer was swarmed by HCC well-wishers who traveled to see history made and the men’s basketball team, which played the second game of a doubleheader. She hugged her players and her assistant coaches, who she credits with doing the hard work to get her to this level.

And then she posed for a team picture with a homemade sign commemorating the significant victory.

“It just means I have been here a long time,” Palmer deadpanned.

But it was the first of a number of accolades ahead in her final year as HCC’s coach. Palmer announced her retirement before the season.

Pinkcett was HCC’s steadying force with 16 points, 10 rebounds, seven blocked shots, three assists and the one steal. Flores finished with 18 points while Sprecher had 11. Dalvon Pinkney and Melissa Singer led Howard with 14 points each.

“I saw the play unfold and … I don’t know,” Palmer said. “I’m at a loss for words. I just hope this isn’t what this team is remembered for. There is a lot left and they have a chance to win a championship.”

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