New Rochelle, NY—The preliminary rounds have ended; the national collegiate hoops tourneys are beginning this week. Outstanding performances by the Monroe college hoopsters in the district finals last weekend at the Monroe Athletic Complex (MAC) earned the two teams invitations to the NJCAA National tournament. Both were in the Nationals in 2011; the men finished third in their division and the women were national champs.
The nationally 3rd ranked Mustangs (30-3) trounced the Hagerstown Community College Hawks (28-5), 88-55, in the District III men’s finals on Saturday evening to qualify for the Division I Nationals in Hutchinson, Kansas for the third straight season.
They have won eight Region XV and five District III titles in the 10 years Jeff Brustad has been head coach.
The local team and the one from Maryland developed a strong rivalry during the past two years. Hagerstown defeated Monroe after two overtime periods in the final of the Hagerstown Classic in the fall of 2010. Monroe evened the score in the 2011 District III final by edging the Hawks in overtime by one point.
Monroe easily defeated the Hawks, 98-78, in November to win this season’s Hagerstown Classic. After the triumph, Monroe’s experienced coach, Jeff Brustad, spoke about the rivalry, “Last year, we had our hands full with them two times. It was a little better tonight, but we have no doubt that could change anytime we play them. It’s a good rivalry.”
Although Hagerstown had won its last seven games and 18 of its last 19, it was overwhelmed by the Mustangs in the opening minutes. Effective fast breaks, pinpoint accuracy from the perimeter and control of the boards gave the Mustangs a 26-7 advantage after nine minutes of play. There was no let up by the Mustangs who led, 43-18, at the half.
The Mustangs’ shooting remained hot throughout the game and their defense kept the Hawks to a shooting percentage of only 29.2 from the floor. Monroe shooting was very impressive from all areas of the court. The Mustangs netted half of their shots from the floor, 33 of 66. They were even more accurate from beyond the arc, sinking 13 of 23 3-pointers. Monroe was also successful in all nine of its free throw attempts. The final score was a one-sided 88-55.
The contributors to the victory were many. Guard Davon Marshall hit 5 of 6 long-range shots and was the high scorer of the game with 21. He was named the tournament MVP. Marco Bourgault scored 15 on five from 3-point range. Center Orlando Sanchez achieved a double-double, 12 points and 11 boards. Maurice Ndour scored 12, grabbed 6 boards and blocked 2 shots. Point guard Drimir Ferguson of the Bronx directed the offense. He dished 9 assists, stole the ball 5 times and scored 9.
The planning and preparation was directed all season by Brustad. After the win, he commented, “From the first day of practice in the fall, it was our goal to win this game today so we can get back to the Nationals…the opportunity to have a team as talented and unified as this one doesn’t come around too often, and with our six players who were with us at the national tournament last year, we think we’re going to give it a pretty good run in Kansas.”
The Monroe women’s team will be participating in the NJCAA National Tournament for the ninth consecutive year. The 15th ranked 2nd Division Mustangs (27-6) earned the invite by defeating Union County College, 66-43, in the semi-final of the District N tournament on Saturday afternoon.
Unlike the two previous games this year that were won by Monroe but were competitive, Saturday’s contest was a runaway by Monroe. The Mustangs answered the initial basket by the Owls by scoring the next 13 points, which gave them a double digit lead, 13-2 at 12:45. The onslaught continued and the advantage grew to 23-5 with 7:01 left in the half. A small 9-2 run by the Owls cut the deficit but Monroe led 33-16 at the half. The Owls netted only 4 of 38 from the floor in the first half. The second half was anti-climactic as Monroe won, 66-43, which clinched the Mustangs a berth in the National Tournament.
Freshman Jasmine McRoy handled the ball excellently and scored a game-high 21 points. Region XV Player of the Year, Aivah Parham, achieved a double-double as did 6-5 Verdine Warner, who grabbed 20 boards. After the contest, Coach James Robinson, Jr. complimented his players, “No doubt last week was a very tough loss for us, but like the loss earlier this year to ASA, we were able to learn from and use it to better ourselves. Today we were able to play smarter and take advantage of this second opportunity we’ve been given and made the most out of it.”
On Sunday afternoon, Monroe defeated the Lackawanna College Falcons of Rhode Island to capture the District N title, 80-58. Several players had outstanding performances. Parham achieved her 12th double-double of the season. McRoy again scored above 20 points (22). Warner grabbed 19 rebounds. Kashay Barnes was the high scorer with 26. Starting guard Lynasha Frazier, who was injured after seven minutes on Saturday’s contest, did not play. Both Lackawanna and Monroe will advance to the National Tournament in Peoria, Illinois this week.
Monroe’s Athletic Director Bert Shillingford explained the mindset of the college’s successful athletic program, “Our long standing motto is ’together we aspire, together we achieve.’ Our success in basketball, and all our sports for that matter, is a glowing commentary on what can happen when talented and dedicated people work in concert, including our administrators, coaches, support staff, and most important, the student/athletes themselves.”