By: Dr. Richard Midcap
McHENRY, MD – After upsets in Friday's first two quarterfinals, top-seeded Garrett College hoped to restore order to the NJCAA Division II Region XX men's basketball tournament. The host Lakers did just that, but it took a frantic rally in the closing minutes to pull out a 78-75 victory over eighth-seeded Northern Virginia Community College.
Garrett guard Jaki Clanton scored six points in the final 80 seconds, including a deep 3-pointer as the shot clock was winding down to break a 75-75 tie with 7.2 seconds remaining. NoVa's Wesley Hardaway missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer as Garrett (24-5) advanced to Saturday's 4 p.m. semifinal against the winner of Friday night's fourth quarterfinal between fourth-seeded Potomac State College and fifth-seeded Cecil College.
Garrett, which erased a nine-point deficit in the final 4:22, took a 73-72 lead when Clanton turned a drive down the right side of the lane into a three-point play with 1:20 remaining. Jafar Musa (13 points, 11 rebounds) added a pair of free throws to give the Lakers a 75-72 lead, but Addison Burgess (18 points) drew the Nighthawks even with a 3-pointer from the left corner with 37 seconds remaining.
The Lakers began to run down the clock, but in doing so left Clanton with the ball about 25 feet from the basket with the shot clock about to expire. He drained the 3-point effort to finish off a 16-point performance.
"There was nowhere for the ball to go," said Clanton, who also had 6 rebounds and 3 assists. "I guess I was the only open person, so I took the shot."
"Jaki's not a shooter – that's not his role," said Garrett head coach Dennis Gibson. "But he has a big heart and he's a big 'team' guy. That shot couldn't have happened to a better guy."
"Jaki hit the big shot," added Musa. "The key was we just played together to the end. You've got to play to the final whistle."
Sixth-seeded College of Southern Maryland bounced third-seeded CCBC-Dundalk, 94-63, in Friday's opener and seventh-seeded Frederick Community College pulled off an 85-75 overtime upset against second-seeded CCBC-Catonsville in the second quarterfinal. Garrett seemed likely to be the third higher seed to fall after NoVa's Burgess buried a 3-pointer with 5:06 remaining to extend the Nighthawks' lead to 70-61.
The Lakers got back into the game with a 7-0 run, climaxed by a 3-pointer from the right wing by Ariel Watson (15 points) with 3:10 remaining that pulled Garrett within 70-68. Northern Virginia (10-18) rebuilt the lead to 72-68 on a layup from Jordan Jones (18 points), but Laker Shane Chikerema's two free throws with 2:08 left closed the gap to 72-70.
Jermaine Samuel was the fourth Laker in double figures with 11 points. NoVa's Tariq Felder led all scorers with 23 points.
The Lakers trailed by 10 points in each half, but continued to fight back.
"Our team has been amazingly resilient this season," said Gibson, who emphasized the defensive spark provided by Chikerema.
"I thought Shane's defense out front started changing the game," said Gibson. "He got after it and then everyone else followed suit.
NoVa took its largest lead of the first half, 30-20, when Felder banked home a jumper with 8:16 remaining. The Lakers created a 40-40 halftime tie by scoring the final six points, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Malik Tunc after a Nighthawk turnover.
Musa banked home a jumper off a nice entry pass from Tunc and Clayton hit the second of two free throws to give Garrett a 43-40 lead to open the second half. NoVa, however, responded with a 17-4 surge in which Burgess and Felder scored five points each and Jones capped with a wide-open 3-pointer.
Notes: The College of Southern Maryland (12-16) and Frederick Community College (12-14) play Saturday's 2 p.m. semifinal, guaranteeing there will be a team in the finals with an overall losing record. Last year, Frederick won the region and advanced to nationals with a losing record.