News Lakers Crash Region Xx Tourney Title Game - Garrett College
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Campus News

March 7, 2022

Lakers crash Region XX tourney title game

Canales scores game-high 22; GC upsets 2nd-seeded Howard

JT Lewis' game plan was impressive. The Lakers' execution of that game plan was nearly flawless. The result was a 61-44 rout of second-seeded Howard Community College Friday night that put Garrett College's third-seeded women's basketball team into the NJCAA Region XX Division II title game.

Josie Canales finished with game-highs in both points (22) and rebounds (17) as the Lakers advanced to the region title game against undefeated CCBC-Essex. Essex, ranked third in the nation, went on to defeat the Lakers, 99-59, in Saturday's final.

Against Howard, the Lakers built a 25-point lead and then held off a late surge to avenge a 72-57 regular-season loss to the Dragons. Lewis said the addition of point guard Josias Mickens and improved team chemistry have both worked in the Lakers' favor.

"The team chemistry is so much better than we had the first semester," said Lewis. "Our players have played a bunch of games together, which has really helped, and Josias speeds our team up."

Mickens was a key both offensively and defensively, coming up with 5 steals while scoring 14 points that included several clutch baskets at opportune times.

"We knew that they would pick up the dribble if we applied pressure on the ball and that would give us easy steals in the passing lane," said Mickens, who also had 6 rebounds and 5 assists.

Canales said more defined team roles helped the Lakers oust Howard from the regional tournament.

"When we first played them, we weren't together as a team; we were just starting to know each other," said Canales. "This game we knew everyone's role and stuck to it. We've built a lot of chemistry."

Lewis lauded the team's defensive effort, which limited a high-scoring Howard squad to just 18 first-half points as GC built a 14-point advantage.

"We stayed in our 1-3-1, which was magnificent in the first half," said Lewis, whose squad held Howard to 22 percent shooting from the field for the game. "We emphasized getting out to the 3-point shooters."

Harmoni Swain (3 steals) was the third Laker in double figures with 10 points while Jersey Wise (4 rebounds, 2 assists) just missed double digits with her 9-point effort. Wise sealed the win, draining a back-breaking 3-pointer with 1:59 remaining after the Dragons whittled a 25-point deficit to 14 points with a furious, fourth-quarter rally.

"We were ready for the pressure, but I think we could have handled it better than we did," said Lewis after the Dragons applied full-court pressure with a small, quick lineup that forced a series of fourth-quarter turnovers.

Surprisingly – given how Howard dominated the regular-season meeting – the Dragons never led after Kori People's 3-pointer gave Howard an early 5-4 lead. GC responded with an 11-0 run that Wise started with a 3-pointer and Mickens finished with back-to-back treys.

Howard pulled within 15-9 on another People jumper late in the first quarter, but the Lakers answered with a 10-0 spurt that put the hosts in control.

Shay Barlow (4 points, 3 rebounds) sank 2 free throws to give the Lakers a 17-9 cushion after the opening period. GC scored the first 8 points of the second quarter to take a 25-9 lead as Canales, Swain and Mickens each contributed baskets.

The Lakers, who had a 32-18 halftime advantage, started the second half with a 7-0 streak. Canales had 4 points in the run, including a pair of free throws and a jumper, as the lead grew to 21 points.

GC twice led by 25, the last time as Canales scored consecutive baskets to give the Lakers a 53-28 margin early in the fourth quarter.

People – who had a game-high 32 points in the regular-season meeting – scored 10 of her team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter to try to bring the Dragons back. She had 9 points in a 14-3 Howard surge that pulled the Dragons within 56-42, but Wise's trey sealed the win.

People was the only Dragon to reach double digits. Kalani Corkeron, who had 15 points in the regular-season meeting, was limited to just 5 points on 1-for-6 shooting.

Aliyah Tucker, who missed some time after turning her ankle, finished with 2 points and 7 rebounds for the Lakers.

Lewis said Friday's impressive win was the culmination of the Lakers' season-long efforts.

"Getting to the [region] final – it's amazing," remarked Lewis. "These six girls show up to practice every day ready to work. They have faith in the process. They get along. They definitely deserve what they've achieved."