HAGERSTOWN—In golf, they “Drive for show and putt for dough.”
Tee shots are for showing off, but holing putts is where the money is won.
Junior college basketball has reached that similar stage.
Hagerstown Community College will be one of four teams vying for the Region XX title, starting Friday night at HCC’s athletic complex. After driving for five months, it’s money time for the Hawks.
“As a coach, this is a very exciting time of the year,” said HCC coach Barry Brown. “We have played the entire season to get to this point. Now it’s time that when you win you go on or you lose and you go home.”
For the last two seasons, HCC (26-4) has won and advanced to the District 3 playoff for a chance to win its way into the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. Both times, the Hawks have headed off at the pass.
Still, second-seeded HCC enters Friday’s 8 p.m. game against No. 3 seed Frederick as the two-time defending region champion. It’s the Hawks title until someone takes it from them.
This year, there is more balanced competition for the honor.
“There are four teams in the tournament and all four think they can win it,” Brown said.
Top-seeded Baltimore, the Maryland JuCo Conference’s regular-season champion, faces fourth-seeded Harford at 6 p.m. in the Division I opener. That game follows a pair of Division II play-in games at 2 and 4 p.m. before HCC, the league tournament champ, takes the floor.
The Division I winners will advance to the championship game on Sunday at 5 p.m. The winner of that game will host the District 3 game next week.
“We are playing Frederick. We split games with them this season,” said Brown. “They are a great team and we have had a long rivalry with them.
“We have to show up and play the way we are capable of. We have to make multiple stops on defense and rebound so we can get the ball out and be opportunistic. And then, we have to make foul shots. That’s been the key for us.”
If HCC takes down the Cougars, then its either Baltimore or Harford, both of which have recent histories with the Hawks.
“Baltimore beat us at the end of the season,” Brown said. “And Harford, they took us down to the end and we needed to hit a buzzer-beater to win the game. We respect all of these teams and that’s the way it should be.”
HCC, ranked No. 17 in the NJCAA poll, is led by Antonio Jennifer, who is averaging 20.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and Kervin Remeau, at 16.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Both were named to the All-Maryland JuCo first team earlier this week.
But the Hawks have a team in which any of the 10 players on the roster can be the hero on any night. Case in point, Jerel Carter hit a 35-foot bank shot at the buzzer to beat Harford for the league tournament title two weeks ago.
No matter the competition, though, it still comes down to how HCC plays if it wants a third-straight shot at going to the national tournament.
“Now it comes down to being very efficient, cutting down on turnovers and playing well as a team,” Brown said. “There is going to be some very good basketball played this weekend. But right now, we are 0-0 and playing one game at a time and Friday night that’s Frederick.”