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By The Hutchinson News
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Playing fast and furious, Region XIV men’s champ Lee College defeated Hagerstown CC 104–97 on Monday behind the 25 points of Jamal Jones.
Hagerstown twice came back from double-digit deficits in the second half but could never take the lead.
Lee (25-10) will move into Tuesday night’s round of 16 in the NJCAA men’s basketball tournament against No. 5 Vincennes (31-2). Coach Roy Champagne said it’s time to move on from Monday’s game – the good and the bad.
“You need an attitude of no matter how good or bad you play, you believe that you won the game, you are moving on and focusing on the next opponent,” he said. “We made a tremendous amount of mistakes out there, but our kids continue to put it in the past and move to the next play.”
The Rebels showed the ability to light up the scoreboard. They are not big, but their length and athleticism make them a dangerous team – one that can score points in bunches, and as it showed on Monday, one that can give up its share of points, too.
“I tell people ‘If we’re up, don’t worry. If we’re down, don’t worry.’” Champagne said. “We’ve been on both sides of that coin. We have blown leads and lost games. We have battled back and won games. I don’t think there’s much that these guys have not seen.”
Against Hagerstown, the Rebels ran the gamut. They had a 10-point lead at the intermission that quickly evaporated when the Hawks (29-5) scored the first six points of the second half, which created some momentum. They eventually tied the game at 60 on an Antonio Jenifer lay-in with 12 minutes to play.
“We were feeling really good at that point,” said Jenifer, the sophomore forward who scored 25 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in his final junior college game. “We didn’t come all this way to give up. I am heartbroken, but I can’t be mad because we didn’t give up.”
The tie game was short-lived. The Rebels showed their explosiveness over the next 17 seconds. Chris Blake took a pass inside and slammed it home to give Lee a 62-60 lead and Isaac Carter then picked Jerel Carter’s pocket at mid-court. He stole the ball, drove for a lay-up and hit the ensuing free throw to make it 65-60.
That’s Lee’s MO. For every run against the Rebels, there is often a more lethal run of their own.
“We’ve been doing that all year,” said Jones, who came off the bench to score his 25 points and pull down eight rebounds. “We’ve been down 20 and we’ve been up 20. We just keep playing. We keep playing hard.”
The Rebels didn’t stop there. A Jones 3-pointer with five minutes to play made it 95-80 and seemed to spell the beginning of the end of Hagerstown’s stay in Hutchinson. Not so quick.
The Hawks made another run and Stephen Christy’s 3 with 1:07 to play cut Lee’s lead to 97-92.
The Rebels kept Hagerstown from getting any closer by hitting their free throws down the stretch.
“We are very comfortable in games like this,” said Lee forward Deng Deng, a native of Melbourne, Australia who had 20 points 12 rebounds and six assists in the victory. “We don’t worry about a lot when we’re out there.”