CUMBERLAND, Md.—Monroe College performed surgery on the Hagerstown Community College men’s basketball team on Saturday.
First, the Mustangs took the Hawks’ legs. Then, they took HCC’s hearts.
Monroe used gritty, physical defense to wear down the Hawks before using one final stand to knock them out for a 79-78 overtime victory in the NJCAA District 3 championship game at Allegany College.
The Mustangs (29-4) used three consecutive 3-pointers to come back from seven points down in the final 3:48 of regulation before grabbing the edge in overtime to earn a second straight trip to the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
It was Monroe’s 19th straight win and 24th in the last 25 games since a 109-101 double overtime loss to HCC on Nov. 27, 2010.
“They made some shots and we didn’t. We didn’t make our foul shots in the end like we should,” said HCC coach Barry Brown. “It was a long game. I think we got our legs taken out.
“Monroe is the type of team that plays hard and plays the percentages. We were doing that, too. We weren’t expecting them to hit those 3s. It came down to the percentage of one point.”
In a game in need of a hero, Monroe’s Paul Scotland stepped forward right when the Mustangs needed it the most.
First, he hit two of the 3s, sandwiching around the third by Davon Marshall in a 10-2 run to produce a 69-68 lead. Besides those three straight 3s, the Mustangs were 4 of 27 from long range the rest of the game.
Scotland canned a pair of foul shots with 17.2 seconds remaining to knot the game at 71-all. The game went into overtime when Dameatric Scott was short on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
“Just getting to overtime was big for us,” said Monroe coach Jeff Brustad. “To get the stop was big — I thought (Scott’s) shot was there — but then it was a five-minute game.”
Overtime featured a tighter style of play. It was a see-saw battle that came down to foul shooting and defense.
Scott missed two foul shots with 1:58 to go in the extra period and the score tied at 75. Monroe took advantage of the misses with Scotland driving the lane for a layup and the lead. Scott retied the score with 1:24 remaining with a follow shot off a rebound.
Scotland drove the lane again to give Monroe the 79-77 lead with 1:02 remaining. Scott went to the line with 48 seconds remaining after being fouled putting back the rebound of a D’Quan Lynch failed 3. Scott only converted the second shot to leave Monroe with a one-point lead.
The final 48 seconds was a flurry of desperation.
Monroe milked the clock only to have Marshall miss on a 3. Lynch got the rebound and drove the left of the lane, but had his shot blocked. The Mustangs rushed to the other end of the floor but HCC knocked the ball out of bounds before calling its final timeout with 5.6 seconds remaining.
The Hawks deflected the ensuing inbound pass to Scott, who turned to start HCC’s final try at victory, but as he turned, Scotland knocked the ball loose, picked it up and dribbled out the clock to start Monroe’s celebration.
“We had a play to get a guy open but didn’t throw that pass for some reason,” Brustad said. “Then, when we got it in, it deflected, but we got it back. We were having a lot of shots go in and out and had trouble all day. Finally, we got the ball to bounce our way.”
The first half was a struggle for momentum. Monroe’s defense made the Hawks stagnant. HCC got a final burst of momentum at the end of the half as Arthur Hairston scored on a layup and Devin Miller hit a 3 to give the Hawks a 34-32 halftime lead.
The game continued to be tight in the second half. Miller hit a 3 to give HCC a 50-49 lead with 11:10 remaining in regulation. Then, HCC point guard Lauren Coates took control with seven points to give the Hawks the edge. It staked HCC to a 64-56 lead — its largest of the game — before everything headed into reverse.
“We battled ... we worked our tails off,” Brown said. “They didn’t think the game was over, but there was a couple of exuberant plays in there. Then they hit those couple of 3s in a row, which they didn’t do the whole game.”
Scotland led Monroe with 18 points, including 12 in the final eight minutes, while Tauron Bailey added 16 points and 14 rebounds. Najee White led HCC with 15 points, while Miller and Scott finished with 14 each. Miller had 10 rebounds.
“I will never forget the pain of this loss,” Brown said. “But the one thing I will remember is how proud I am of these guys. These guys are like a family ... like 11 brothers.”
Monroe 79, HCC 78
MONROE COLLEGE (25-4)
Ferguson 5-12 3-4 14, Marshall 6-17 1-1 16, Eaddy 0-2 0-0 0, Scotland 7-12 2-2 18, Lindsay 1-2 3-4 6, Earley 3-14 3-5 9, Antoine 0-0 0-0 0, Berry 0-0 0-0 0, Sanchez 0-6 0-0 0, Bailey 7-11 2-3 16. Totals 29-77 14-19 79.
HAGERSTOWN COM. COLLEGE (26-6)
Lynch 3-7 3-4 9, Scott 4-10 5-8 14, Chisholm 3-7 1-2 8, Miller 5-15 1-2 14, Wite 5-9 5-8 15, Boyd 0-1 0-0 0, Handanovic 2-2 0-0 6, Hairston 2-2 0-0 4, Coates 2-3 4-8 8. Totals 26-56 19-32 78.
Halftime — HCC 34-32. 3-point goals — Monroe 7-30 (Marshall 3-12, Scotland 2-4, Lindsay 1-2, Ferguson 1-3, Early 0-7, Sanchez 0-1, Bailey 0-1), HCC 7-17 (Miller 3-7, Handanovic 2-2, Chisholm 1-2, Scott 1-3, Lynch 0-2, Boyd 0-1 ). Technical Fouls — Monroe 1 (Sanchez), HCC 1 (Scott). Fouled out — Sanchez, Early.