April 26th, 2021
Lakers' perfect season ends in semis as GC finishes fourth in the nation
Davidson-Davie, Iowa Lakes take control with hot first halves against Garrett
Garrett College's Anthony Crosby (14) defends against Iowa Lakes Community College's Keshawn Pegues Saturday night in the third-place game of the NJCAA Division II men's basketball national championship tournament. Pegues scored 26 points as Iowa Lakes defeated Garrett, 90-71.
Danville, Ill. – Garrett College started 17-0 this season and reached the NJCAA Division II men's basketball Final Four thanks in large part to its high-powered offense. The Lakers, however, experienced first-half shooting woes in both of its Final Four contests as GC suffered its only two losses of the season.
The Lakers shot 23 percent from the field and scored only 19 first-half points in Friday's national semifinal against top-seeded Davidson-Davie Community College (23-3). The Storm, which led by as many as 28 points, then withstood a 70-point second-half effort by the Lakers and held on for a 97-89 win that put the Storm in the national title game.
"Their defense kept us off balance," said GC head coach Dennis Gibson. "Davidson-Davie ran a defensive trap we tried to work on previously, but we didn't have any practice time [after beating Ancilla College in the previous round] to work on it. The emotion of the Ancilla game was also more than I expected in terms of affecting our shooting."
In Saturday's third-place game, sixth-seeded Iowa Lakes Community College (21-8) built a 50-35 halftime advantage as GC shot 38 percent from the field in the first half. The Lakers whittled that lead to 5 points, pulling within 63-58 on a 7-0 run climaxed by a Cam Selders field goal with 8:44 remaining, but ILCC responded with a 13-0 run that put the game away.
"We had open shots, but we really settled for shots early [in the shot clock] instead of making the extra pass as we did during the season," observed Gibson.
Despite a pair of Final Four losses, GC finished the season with a fourth-place national finish that is the best in program history. The Lakers won both region and district championships for the third time in the last eight seasons.
"The resilience of these guys never ceased to amaze me," said Gibson, noting his players lived in a "double bubble" of COVID-influenced athletics and academics. "They just kept working.
"This team had true care for each other like I have not seen in years – maybe ever," added Gibson.
In Friday's semis, Javeon Jones sparked Davidson-Davie with 24 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. Isaiah Pruett added 19 points and teammates L.J. Rogers and D.J. Suggs scored 10 each for the Storm. Josh Dupree and Na'Zae Baltimore each added 8 to the balanced Storm offense.
GC's D'Monte Brown (6 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists) tied Jones for game-high scoring honors with 24 points. Desta Robel (5 rebounds) added 22 points and Cam Selders (5 assists, 4 rebounds) scored 17, but no other Laker had more than Davis Molloy's 8 points.
Keshawn Pegues hit 10-of-12 field-goal attempts and 6-of-8 free throws, scoring a highly efficient 26 points to pace Iowa Lakes over GC in Saturday's third-place game. Dillon Carlson, whose 8-of-12 shooting from the field included 4-of-7 from the three-point line, added 20 and Ryan Hall chipped in 13. IOCC shot a blistering 61 percent from the field, spoiling any GC comeback hopes.
Molloy (26 points) and Brown (18 points) were the only GC players in double digits against Iowa Lakes.
Second-seeded Des Moines Area Community College (21-5) defeated Davidson-Davie, 86-75, Saturday night to win its first national title. Christian Haffner (game-high 23 points), Zach Hobbs (19 points), Mark Bradshaw (14 points), and Ryan Schmitt (13 points, 11 rebounds) all scored in double figures while Willie Guy (7 points) dealt a game-high 12 assists.
Notes: Brown made the NJCAA Division II All-Tournament Team.
The Lakers have won 26 of their last 30 dating back to late last season and are a combined 41-10 over the past two seasons.
GC's team bus was met at the state line Sunday afternoon by police, fire and rescue squads who escorted the Lakers back to campus. A crowd of about 75 people – including family members, other GC athletes, college staff and administrators, and "friends of the program" – was on hand at the College to welcome the team home.
"The fan support and the love from Garrett County, Garrett College staff, and supporters was amazing," said Gibson. "I can't even put it into words."
The most up-to-date information on Garrett College's response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), can be found online at https://www.garrettcollege.edu/corona-virus.php.