HAGERSTOWN — Devin Miller has a short memory.
That’s probably what many will gladly remember about him once he finally leaves Hagerstown Community College.
Miller, using every ounce of his shooter’s mentality, got past his offensive struggles just at the right time on Sunday. The sophomore scored eight straight points in a three-minute stretch late in the second half to bring HCC from behind and set up a final defensive stand to earn a 79-74 victory over Allegany College to win a second straight NJCAA Region XX Division I Tournament title.
“I told Devin at the half and in the second half that his shot would fall. Just quit worrying,” said HCC coach Barry Brown. “And it did. He’s been huge for us. He is Devin ‘Big Shot’ Miller and I knew this game wasn’t going to end without him leaving an imprint on it. He was struggling and he found his inspiration.”
In a game with many stories, HCC’s title run hinged on Miller’s big shots and a final two minutes of unforgiving defensive pressure led by Jerel Carter.
With HCC trailing 68-64, Miller canned a 3-pointer from the right of the key with 3:54 remaining. He followed it with another trey from the right wing 83 seconds later and a follow-up dunk with 1:21 to go to pull the Hawks into a 72-72 tie.
“During one of the timeouts, (HCC guard Tione Womack) pulled my jersey and said ‘C’mon.’ We have been here before,” Miller said. “I thought it would come back. I wanted to do this for my team.”
From there, Miller passed the baton to Carter and HCC’s pressure defense, AKA an ameba on steroids, to finish the job. Carter and Alister Chisholm led a charge that altered or tipped a number of Allegany passes, leading to steals.
Carter was designated the closer of the game, as he spent the majority of the final 80 seconds at the foul line as the Trojans tried to fight back to force overtime. The Hawks outscored Allegany 7-2 — all from the foul line — to seal the victory.
Carter hit 5 of 8 free throws in that span and Chisholm added the other two to lift HCC (28-4) into a district final game next weekend against Monroe College (Bronx, N.Y.) or Harcum College in either the New York or Philadelphia area.
“I just had to make them. My team depended on it. It’s family,” Carter said, while putting a hand over the F-A-M-I-L-Y tattooed on his chest. “This is really big. Defensively, we won the region last year and I needed to do it for my team and come through.”
Lost in the shuffle was a 16-point, eight-rebound performance by tournament MVP Antonio Jenifer and a game-high 19-point outburst by Chisholm, who was playing his second game since suffering a strained knee 16 days ago.
Also left in the rearview mirror was an 18-0 run by Allegany that bridged across the two halves to go from 39-31 down with 1:43 remaining in the first half to a 49-39 lead with 16:20 remaining.
Jenifer, Chisholm and Ray Watson scored consecutive baskets to get HCC back within 49-45 with 14 minutes left.
From that point on, it became about the defense for HCC.
“We stayed in man pretty much the whole second half and I said I wasn’t going to change anything until the last five minutes of the game,” Brown said. “The game changed when we brought in five fresh guys at that point. That final stretch was the cumulative effect of the pressure defense we played the entire game.”
HCC held a 29-18 lead early, but Allegany worked back behind 10 points by Casey Roberts, leading to the 18-0 run. The Hawks led 39-38 at the half.
Miller and Watson scored 14 points each to give HCC four scorers in double figures.
Roberts and Ricky Mosley led Allegany (18-12) with 14 points each while center Darnell Turner finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
HCC entered the region tournament seeded third in the three-team field. The Hawks knocked off Vincennes (Ind.) University, ranked third nationally, in a physical 75-68 victory Saturday. They turned around to win the title against Allegany, which earlier this season gave HCC two of its four losses by a total of nine points.
“How do you top this?” Brown said. “This is like Hollywood. First, we had to go out and beat Vincennes and we laid it all on the line. I had a lot of guys aching and using ice this morning. Then we had to come out and take on this team that beat us twice. They played solid and they are well coached. But I think we were inspired to beat Vincennes just so we could get another shot at Allegany. Allegany inspired us to beat Vincennes. It was all about redemption.”
Region XX Division I championship
HCC 79, Allegany 74
HAGERSTOWN COM. COLLEGE (28-4)
Womack 4, Chisholm 19, Miller 14, Jenifer 16, Watson 14, Carter 7, Pyatt 3, Pittman 2. Totals 30-75 12-18 79.
ALLEGANY COLLEGE (18-12)
Day 8, Dale 11, Mosley 14, Roberts 14, Turner 12, Mann 9, Johnson 6. Totals 27-58 11-12 74
Halftime — HCC 39, Allegany 38. 3-point goals — HCC 7-30 (Miller 2-12, Watson 2-3, Chisholm 2-7, Jenifer 1-3, Pittman 0-3, Womack 0-1, Pyatt 0-1), Allegany 9-21 (Dale 3-4, Mann 3-4, Day 2-4, Mosley 1-1, Roberts 0-7, Jones 0-1). Rebounds — HCC 35 (Jenifer 8), Allegany 44 (Turner 12). Assists — HCC 8 (Womack 4), Alleany 1 (Roberts). Turnovers — HCC 17, Allegany 32. Fouled Out — Allegany 2 (Day, Roberts).