NORTH EAST, Md. – Cecil College's defense was stellar throughout Friday afternoon's NJCAA Division II Region XX men's basketball quarterfinal against third-seeded Garrett College. The sixth-seeded Seahawks' offense finally alive in the second half, helping the tournament hosts pull away for a surprisingly easy, 84-55 win over their third-seeded opponents.
"I think it was 13-9 at the 10-minute mark [of the first half]," marveled Cecil head coach Ed Durham, whose team went on to win the region title with victories over second-seeded Community College of Beaver County and top-seeded Potomac State College. "It ended up being a matter of us hitting a couple of shots, getting into an offensive flow, and getting out and running."
Hassan Corbin (12 points), Shylier Ringgold (11 points), and Darrell Johnson (10 points) combined for 28 second-half points to spark the Seahawks. Jacob Falko led Cecil with a team-high 14 points, split evenly between the halves.
Cecil made just 33 percent of its first-half field-goal attempts, but hit 10-of-14 free throws and held the Lakers to even icier 24 percent shooting to build a 28-20 halftime lead. The Seahawks then exploded for 56 second-half points, quickly building a 20-point cushion with an 11-2 run and eventually leading by as many as 34 points.
Durham said the Seahawks (21-11) didn't do anything unusual defensively against the Lakers, who had scored 84 points in a two-point regular-season loss to Cecil.
"We played our normal, straight-up, full-court, man-to-man defense," said Durham. "Our philosophy is if you can't guard – or you don't want to guard – then you come out of the game."
"Their 'man' defense was excellent and very physical. They stepped up their defensive pressure and made the refs make calls or get to the point where they quit calling them," said GC head coach Dennis Gibson, noting the physical nature of the contest.
Garrett (16-13) started quickly enough. A Zakeem Davis (game-high 22 points) dunk off a turnover, Marin Lisica's inside hoop after a weak-side offensive rebound, and a coast-to-coast layup by Devin Wilkerson (16 points) gave the Lakers an early 6-2 lead. After Cornell Corbin hit a layup for the Seahawks, Lisica (4 points, 6 rebounds) scored on a back-door layup to restore Garrett's four-point cushion.
GC, however, went the next 7:47 without a basket, helping the Seahawks go on a 15-3 scoring spree as Cecil grabbed the lead for good. Falko scored all seven of his first-half points consecutively as part of that run, which Darrell Jenkins capped with a corner trey for a 19-11lead.
Davis scored three baskets, including the only Laker trey of the half, as Garrett used an 8-1 spurt to pull within 20-19. Cecil, however, responded with its own 8-1 streak. McKale Williams started the spurt with a 3-pointer and the Seahawks finished the half by hitting 5-of-6 free throws to take their 28-20 lead into the half.
Cecil wasted no time expanding its lead after the break.
George Davey hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Falko dunked at the end of a two-on-one break off a turnover to give the Seahawks a 33-20 advantage. Strahinja Ivic pulled the Lakers within 35-26 with a 3-pointer, but Davey scored on a putback, Khalid Gates added a layup, and Falko drained a 3-pointer as Cecil stretched its lead to 42-26.
Shylier Ringgold hit a layup with 13:53 remaining that gave the Seahawks a 48-28 cushion, and the hosts never led by less than 16 the rest of the way.
"Once we were down, we took too many chances," said Gibson. "And when we switched defenses, we did not play like our teams normally play. We have always been known as a 'man' defensive team."
The Seahawks shot nearly 57 percent from the field in the second half and almost 48 percent for the game compared to 32 percent for the game by Garrett.
"We played pretty well defensively and they [GC] didn't shoot well tonight," said Durham. "Unfortunately, your whole season comes down to one weekend."
While the Lakers posted yet another winning campaign, they finished the season on a five-game losing streak.
"We lost games that I did not think we would lose most years," said Gibson, noting a slew of late-season injuries "did impact us."
"Never having your top players play together definitely impacted our ability to get our team all on the same page offensively and defensively," said Gibson.