March 14th, 2023
Chesapeake eliminates Laker men
DeMaria leads eventual champions past Garrett College
Wye Mills, MD – Justin DeMaria scored a game-high 18 points off the bench last Tuesday night as second-seeded Chesapeake College defeated Garrett College, 84-62, in an NJCAA Division II Region 20 men's basketball quarterfinal.
Former Laker Lamont Powell added 17 points, DJ Earl scored 16, and Izaiah Credle contributed 15 points for the balanced Skipjacks (29-4), who went on to win the region championship.
"I give Chesapeake a lot of credit – they played really well against us," said GC head coach Matt McCullough. "They jumped on us early in the first half. We cut their lead to nine points early in the second half, but every time we got close they had an answer."
GC's Nyrek Wheeler (nine rebounds) matched DeMaria's game high with 18 points and led all players with six assists. AJ Crosby (nine rebounds) tallied 14 points, and reserve Nathaniel Washington added 13 for the Lakers (19-12).
Chesapeake, which had a 43-28 halftime cushion, led by double digits throughout much of the second half.
"I credit that to their overall experience," said McCullough, noting the Skipjacks are led by six sophomore performers. "We struggled to make shots from the perimeter and they shot the ball well from the floor other than a couple of stretches. Our guys played hard; it just wasn't in the cards that night."
The Skipjacks, ranked 12th nationally in NJCAA Division II, went on to beat Cecil College, 88-83, in the semis and then downed Montgomery College, 79-59, in Saturday's title game to win the regional championship. Chesapeake's 29 wins is a school record.
GC overcame two critical backcourt injuries to earn a 19-win season. Jhaiden Wilson missed the entire season and Kamau Mitchell missed a huge stretch of the Lakers' regular season.
"We had two of our top scorers and players out for either the whole year or the majority of the season," noted McCullough. "I was proud of the resilience that our guys showed, especially down the stretch when we won our last four regular-season games. We had a lot of young guys step up for us – Munchy [Thompson], Kam [Heathington], Rob [Smith], Antonio [Adams], Nate [Washington], and Cassius [Bonjasky] come to mind."
The Lakers went 37-23 in McCullough's first two seasons as head coach – and McCullough believes GC will continue to be competitive going forward.
"I think the future is bright," said McCullough. "We'll return a great nucleus of talent who showed flashes throughout the season of having very high ceilings.
"Those guys now know what it takes and what they need to do to improve," added McCullough. "It's a tight-knit group and it was an emotional locker room after our loss to Chesapeake, which means it's important to the guys. I feel more confident and comfortable in the direction we're going."