By: Dr. Richard Midcap
McHENRY, MD – The Seahawks pulled off an inside job to steal a spot in the NJCAA Division II Region XX men's basketball title game.
Freshman guard Caleb Johnson scored a team-high 16 points, most of them going to the basket, as fifth-seeded Cecil College upended top-seeded host Garrett College, 73-65, in a Saturday afternoon semifinal. The Seahawks (16-12) will play sixth-seeded College of Southern Maryland (13-16) in Sunday's 1 p.m. title game.
"I just thought we attacked the rim better in the second half," said Cecil College head coach Ed Durham. "22 [Johnson] was big for us in the second half. He didn't score yesterday [in an 89-79 quarterfinal win over Potomac State] or in the first half today, but he was a spark for us in the second half."
Johnson received plenty of help as Keon Booth (13 points), Laqwin Stewart (12) and Jalen Parham (10) also reached double digits. Greg Alexander added 8 points and Matt Hess contributed 7 points.
Jermaine Samuel scored a game-high 20 points for Garrett and teammate Miguel Rodriguez added 15 points, including four treys, but no one else reached double digits on a day when the Lakers (24-6) never really got untracked offensively.
"They got to the basket on us and forced us to go zone," said Garrett head coach Dennis Gibson. "And we didn't make shots. You make shots and they have to adjust to you. They make shots and we have to adjust to them."
The Seahawks, who handed Garrett one of its two home-court losses during the regular season, certainly seemed comfortable on the Lakers' court.
"We've been a great road team – that's our 11th win on the road or at a neutral site," said Durham, whose team was just 5-7 at home this season.
Cecil, which held a nervous 27-26 halftime lead, began to pull away after intermission with a series of runs.
Johnson split a pair of free throws and hit a layup as part of a 5-0 surge that gave the Seahawks a 36-30 cushion. Stewart finished off an 8-3 run with consecutive layups as Cecil's advantage grew to 46-37, and Booth gave the Seahawks a double-digit lead on a 3-pointer that stretched the lead to 54-43 with 9:40 to play .
Garrett responded with one of its few runs, scoring seven straight points to get with 54-50 with 7:55 remaining on a Rodriguez 3-pointer. The Seahawks, however, answer with a 10-2 scoring spree that Hess punctuated with a slam dunk to give Cecil its biggest lead at 64-52.
Garrett didn't quit, pulling within 65-61 with 1:23 remaining thanks to a 9-1 run that included another Rodriguez trey and was capped by two Ariel Watson free throws. Cecil, however, secured the win at the line down the stretch.
The Lakers, who struggled offensively throughout the first half, took their first lead of the game, 19-18, when Rodriguez drained a 3-pointer from the top of key. That was the first of four lead changes in the final 7:26 of the first half, the final one coming when Qyheem Kellam sank two free throws with 11.9 seconds remaining to give the Seahawks the halftime lead.
The College of Southern Maryland reached the title game with a 75-71 victory over seventh-seeded Frederick Community College (12-15) in Saturday's first semifinal.