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Men's Basketball: Hawks soar to NJCAA nationals

March 09, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown's Kervin Rameau (33) battles ASA College's Quillar Marion for a loose ball during Saturday night's NJCAA District III championship game at HCC.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — When it counted most, the Hagerstown Community College men’s basketball team was like dynamite.

That’s because Donte Thomas provided the spark, Kervin Rameau lit the fuse and Antonio Jenifer blew up.

The Hawks exploded with two quick runs and dominated the final 10 minutes of the game on Saturday to ignite a 93-84 victory over ASA College, win the NJCAA District III playoff and earn their first appearance in the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., since 1994.

HCC (29-4) muddled through a tight first half, thanks to 18 points by Thomas, to go to the locker room in a 40-40 tie at the intermission.

Rameau came through with two signature plays in the second half before Jenifer scored 17 of his game-high 32 points in the final seven minutes to carry the Hawks to their third-ever appearance at nationals.

The 24-team Division I national tournament starts the week of March 18.

“We won the game when we were able to go in at 40-40 at the half,” said HCC coach Barry Brown, who also will be making his third trip to Hutchinson, but his first as the head coach. “We were struggling, between the nerves and the adrenaline. They wanted this so much.

“ASA came out in the second half and tried for the knockout punch. Our guys hung in there and knew they would start making shots we were missing. We played with more energy on offense in the second half.”

Thomas kept HCC in position against ASA (28-4), the Region XV champs from New York City. Thomas, considered the playmaker for the Hawks, was the only consistent shooter, hitting two 3s and finding an early flow to keep the game close.

“I was in the zone in the first half,” said Thomas, who finished with 23 points. “They were looking at me as a playmaker and left me open to shoot. In the second half, it was Antonio’s time. I started cramping up and they looked to stop me. I couldn’t move and just started to work to get Kervin and Tony open.”

The two teams battled through 10 ties and 10 lead changes in the first half. Thomas did his part by scoring 15 of his 18 first-half points in the last 10 minutes of the half.

“Donte kept us in the game in the first half,” Brown said. “Donte kept his cool while we were struggling.”

The game remained knotted with three more ties in the second half before Rameau broke the seal on the game and started HCC’s final march to victory.

First, Rameau — who’s 6-foot-6 — made an emphatic windmill-style dunk over ASA’s 6-8 center Victor Ljuljdjuraj that shocked the Avengers and took them out of their game while giving the Hawks a short-lived 48-44 lead with 16:50 remaining.

“That was one of the most expressive plays I’ve ever seen in this gym,” Brown said. “It was probably the best finish ever in this gym. It was explosive and really bothered ASA.”

Rameau followed up with a 3 from the right side of the key with 10:06 left to give HCC a 58-55 lead it never relinquished. It started an 8-2 run as the Hawks started pulling away.

“I’m not a big, but I go in and rebound and work the inside,” said Rameau, who hails from New York City. “But I know I can step out and hit a shot, and they left me open. Donte did what he does in the first half and I tried to do what the team needed until Tony started scoring in the second half.”

Then Jenifer awoke to close out the game. He scored 23 points in the second half, including his decisive seven-minute flurry, to send HCC to Hutchinson.

After struggling from 3-point range, missing his first seven tries, Jenifer hit two straight to start the run as HCC moved to a 71-65 lead with 5:53 left.

“I had to get to the foul line,” said Jenifer, who hit 12 of 15 free throws. “That helped me get my shot down. Then after that, when I hit the 3s, everything started. I was scared to shoot, but Coach and everyone kept telling me to keep shooting.”

The two 3s were the start of a 14-6 run that moved HCC to a 79-68 advantage with 3:22 to go. Jenifer closed the game by scoring nine of the Hawks’ final 14 points.

“I sat on the bench and said as soon as Tony hit one, he’d be off and running,” Brown said. “He did it when it counted most. He came through adversity in a big-time game. That’s what All-Americans and big-time players do.”

HCC took advantage at the foul line, hitting 28 of 34 shots while ASA made only 7 of 10. The Avengers were whistled for 22 fouls to 12 for the Hawks.

Elan Davis and Daquan Brickhouse led ASA with 25 points each.

Rameau finished with 17 and Christian Leach had 16, including 10 in the first half. Jerel Carter dished out 11 assists for the Hawks.

“The two differences were that we had a great hometown crowd. Without them, the game would have been even and we wouldn’t have a homecourt advantage,” Brown said. “The other thing is that we played as a settled, mature team. That’s how it’s supposed to be when you play a game of this magnitude.”

Hagerstown 93, ASA 84
ASA COLLEGE (28-4)
Miles 2-4 2-3 7, Ljuljdjuarj 1-5 2-4 4, Brickhouse 10-16 1-1 25, Dorn 2-8 2-2 6, Davis 12-25 0-0 25, Marion 4-8 0-0 8, Martin 3-10 0-0 9, Marc-Sears 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-76 7-10 84.
HAGERSTOWN COM. COLLEGE (29-4)
Jenifer 9-26 12-15 32, Carter 1-2 2-2 4, Leach 4-9 7-8 16, Thomas 7-12 6-6 23, Rameau 8-11 0-1 17, Christy 0-0 0-0 0, Pittman 0-5 1-2 1. Totals 29-65 28-34 93.
Halftime — Tied, 40-40. 3-point goals — ASA 9-23 (Brickhouse 4-9, Martin 3-8, Miles 1-3, Davis 1-1, Ljuljdjuarj 0-1, Marion 0-1), HCC 7-20 (Thomas 3-4, Jenifer 2-9, Leach 1-2, Rameau 1-1, Pittman 0-3, Carter 0-1). Rebounds — ASA 40 (Ljuljdjuarj 12), HCC 41 (Jenifer 9) Assists — ASA 32 (Davis 8), HCC 26 (Carter 11). Fouls — ASA 22, HCC 12. Fouled out — Marc-Sears. Technical fouls — ASA 2 (Miles, Bench).

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