Needing a win to keep their season alive and earn a spot in the Region XX Division II men’s basketball tournament, Frederick Community College used a 12-0 first half run en route to a 77-63 victory over Northern Virginia (9-17) on Tuesday night at FCC.
With the pressure of not playing tomorrow, the first half run helped to alleviate any angst the Cougars (10-15) may have felt.
“It was very important for us, just to build confidence,” FCC coach Emonte Hill said. “This group feeds off those types of runs.”
With a 17-13 lead with about 11 minutes left in the first half, FCC took control by extending the lead to 16 with just over six minutes until the break. Using defense as the catalyst for the run, Hill’s team forced difficult shots and grab defensive rebounds, which led to a six-minute long scoring drought for Northern Virginia.
“[Defense] is what coach always tells us to do,” said sophomore Jacob McIntosh, who added 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. “Defend first and your offense will come.”
Just as Hill’s message states, the team parlayed their defensive success into points on the offensive end. During the decisive run, Anthony Issac (17 points) made a 3-pointer before Cyree Dunnell (16 points) scored eight consecutive points, including two 3’s.
Before FCC ceased momentum, they already opened up a nine-point lead after a second chance layup by Dunnell to make it 17-8. Elijah Shanks responded with five consecutive points for Northern Virginia before finding themselves on the wrong side of the run.
The Cougars then took a 45-24 lead into halftime.
Northern Virginia stormed out of the second half on a 9-0 run to bring the game within 12. As was the case nearly the entire night, the Cougars were able to thwart momentum shifts by scoring inside, as they scored eight consecutive points in the paint.
With a 68-48 lead with just over nine minutes to play, FCC allowed Northern Virginia to get back into the game by surrendering an 8-0 run, which made the score 68-56 with less than four minutes to go.
“It seemed we got to a point where we got comfortable, and that’s how teams get back in the basketball game,” Hill said about his team’s execution down the stretch.
In the end, FCC withstood the late push as Josiah Jones made a 3 late in the game to seal the 14-point win.
FCC will turn its focus to their region tournament which begins Friday, March 10, according to Region XX’s official website.
If they can win the region tournament, they will earn an appearance in the Division II Junior College National Tournament for the second straight year.
While the team was content with their defensive effort in Tuesday’s win, they want to see continued improvement on that end of the floor to ensure success going forward. The coaches emphasize the importance defense for their team’s success, as they look to keep opponents in the range of 60 points in each game.
“Defense wins games,” Dunnell said.