The Hagerstown Community College women’s basketball team spent the last three weeks in the fitting room.
No new uniforms are involved. It’s more a case of accessorizing.
The Hawks were being fitted for bulls’-eyes.
HCC won’t be entering this weekend’s Region XX Tournament at Cecil College as the favorite. It is more a case that the Hawks have a lot of opponents who may feel a need to even a score.
HCC (24-4) is the second seed in the seven-team tournament which will ultimately select the region’s representative to the nationals in Peoria, Ill. Every team in the field, except Frederick, seems to be in a situation where they would love another shot against the Hawks — including Garrett, which plays HCC on Friday at 5 p.m.
“I think everyone is out there looking to prove their loss to us was a fluke,” said HCC coach Marlys Palmer. “I would think that Garrett would feel pretty good about their chances. They are the seventh seed and we only beat them by 11.”
It’s pretty much the story across the tournament field. HCC defeated top-seeded Chesapeake by four, fourth-seeded Allegany by four in overtime and sixth-seeded Cecil by one at home. On the other side, the Hawks’ only regional losses were both against third-seeded Frederick.
So Palmer has spent the layoff trying to convince HCC that it isn’t exactly invincible.
“If we get by the first round, we will get to play either Frederick, who we haven’t beat, or Cecil, who we beat by only one on our floor,” Palmer said. “This time, we would be playing Cecil on their floor.”
And then there is the underlying problem of getting ready for the tournament. There have been three weeks of downtime, which is a product of an unprecedented gap between the end of the Maryland JuCo tournament and this weekend’s Region XX tournament.
“I will say we have never had this before and probably won’t ever have three weeks between tournaments again,” Palmer said. “It was just a situational thing.”
The main situation, in HCC’s case, was to stay ready to play. Palmer added a pair of regular-season games and gave the Hawks some time off to try and make them sharp for what lies ahead.
“The toughest part is the focus,” Palmer said. “That’s true of any team this time of year. It just takes one player who might be ready for the season to be over. You don’t know what’s going on in their heads, but it might be a player you really need.”
“Basketball at the college level is such a long season,” Palmer said. “We started conditioning when school started, started practice on Oct. 1 and started playing in November and we’re still playing now. We added the two games to keep them ready, but then there is the risk that someone gets hurt. You want to be at your strongest at this time of year.”
HCC had only one loss through January before losing to Prince George’s and Frederick to open February. The Hawks battled through a run of illness and lost point guard Kishia Jackson for almost a month because of a concussion. HCC lost three of four games, including both to Frederick, later in the Maryland JuCo tournament.
HCC comes back to face Garrett and finds itself in the crosshairs.
“We beat them by 11 but they had eight 3s and that’s a concern,” Palmer said. “We have been playing a lot of zone this year because we haven’t matched up well against teams. If teams are patient and work the ball, they can find shots. We have to play man on the ball better.”
The Hawks’ success will hinge on the play of their seven sophomores, who have tournament experience. In games, it will be a case of all hands on deck to get through for a shot at the nationals in Palmer’s final season at HCC before retirement.
The onus, though, will fall on HCC’s starters — Jackson, Alessandra Flores, Katie Sprecher, Yolanda Pinkcett and Jasmine Reynolds.
“They have to set the tone,” Palmer said. “You can’t expect the bench to do that. They are only supposed to be coming in to carry it on.
“We are the only team in the tournament with a full roster of 12 players. I tried to impress on them that each player only has to come in and do anyone else’s thing. We will be looking to use all 12 players so we don’t tire anyone out and get through the tournament.”