Men's Basketball: ASA College presents challenges for Hawks

March 08, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI |
  • Hagerstown's Donte Thomas, back left, has averaged 12.5 points and 9.0 assists for the Hawks this season. He ranks second nationally in assists per game.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — The Hagerstown Community College athletic complex will be hosting a surprise party Saturday night.

For much of the season, many were holding out hope that the Hawks would be hosting the NJCAA District III championship game against Monroe (Bronx) this weekend.

The party starts with HCC (28-4) playing for a trip to Hutchinson, Kan., for the 24-team national tournament Saturday at 7 p.m.

It’s the Hawks’ third straight appearance in the district final, having lost to Monroe in the previous two.

The surprise? Monroe isn’t on the opposite bench this year.

ASA College crashed the party, defeating Monroe 59-57 in the Region XV title game to change the guest list.

Now, it will be HCC, ranked 17th in the nation, against 23rd-ranked ASA.

“It’s a surprise to everyone but them,” Hawks coach Barry Brown said. “They went 28-3 this year and beat Monroe twice, including the one last week in the toughest game of the year on Monroe’s floor.

“They are a heck of a team. If only three teams beat you in a season, you are accustomed to winning. They felt like they were going to go into Monroe and win. A lot of people who follow basketball up there said to watch out for them.”

HCC isn’t a slouch, either, winning its third straight Region XX title with a 94-80 victory over Baltimore.

Still, this game will be a challenge for the Hawks.

ASA is led by its tandem of 5-foot-8 point guard Daquan Brickhouse, averaging 13.6 points per game, and 6-0 shooting guard Elan Davis, who averages 15.7 points.

“(Brickhouse) is a really solid, quick point guard, who runs the team. He’s extremely athletic,” Brown said. “Then (Davis) is strong and as explosive a guard as we have seen all year. That will be challenging.”

It could be an intriguing matchup for the Hawks, who will pit guards Jerel Carter and Donte Thomas against ASA’s pair.

Carter, at 6-3 and averaging 7.6 points, is the floor general who gets the Hawks organized offensively and isn’t afraid to slash to the basket. Meanwhile, the 6-4 Thomas is the playmaker and is second in the nation in assists. He averages 12.5 points and nine assists per game.

The pair stood out during HCC’s victory over Baltimore, as Brown said they were “probably the best guard tandem in the country on this day.”

A major concern for the Hawks will be ASA’s Victor Ljuljdjuraj, a 6-8 post player.

“He is a bigger and older guy on the inside,” Brown said. “He is physical and shoots on the inside. He has a European skill set with a nice little hook. Put him with those guards and it’s a tough combination.”

Brown said ASA has a number of players who can play in the post to complement Micqueel Martin, a 3-point specialist, and Davis.

HCC counters with a team that is long, lean and quick.

Leading the way is swingman Antonio Jenifer, a 6-8 sophomore who ranks eighth in the nation in scoring (20.6 per game) and has the ability to play inside or outside as needed.

Sophomore Kervin Rameau is a 6-6 forward who adds grit inside, while Antwan Pittman and Christian Leach gives the Hawks outside shooting threats.

It still will come down to the things that the Hawks can control to be successful.

“We have to neutralize them on the glass and rebound so we can get out and get going,” Brown said. “That will give us more opportunities throughout the game. We have to make smart decisions.”

The appearance in the district final culminates a season of trials and tribulations for the Hawks, who went through a readjustment period at the end of the season to get ready for the tournament run.

“We are still getting better,” Brown said. “I don’t want to just go to Hutchinson, I want this team to improve and do well out there. Still, we are approaching everything as the next game. ASA is our next game. We have to play Saturday before we think about anything else.”

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