Story by Kevin Dunleavy, Herlad-Mail Media Staff Writer
Photo by Wornden Ly
Hagerstown, Md.—When Trinity Wailes of Cecil College fouled out midway through the third quarter, some in the stands at Hagerstown Community College wondered an obvious question.
What was the 6-foot freshman doing in the game?
Cecil coach Dayra Diamond had an equally obvious answer: She had no choice.
On Saturday afternoon, Diamond had only five players available.
Welcome to junior college basketball, where the "next man up" is sometimes nowhere to be found.
But Cecil has been here before, playing shorthanded, and the Seahawks' experience showed in the situation as they actually outscored the Hawks over the final 15:45 despite the disadvantage of playing four on five.
It all added up to a 72-48 Maryland JUCO victory, led by Cecil's tireless trio of dynamic guards — Destiny Perry, Jalya Smith and Kayla Thompson — who combined for 58 points, 22 rebounds and 12 assists.
"We do our best with the minimal numbers we have," said Diamond. "We've been prepared for this. In practice, we never have a full 10 on the floor."
Cecil (11-11, 6-5) has one player out with a knee injury, another is sidelined with a concussion.
But the ones who were available took care of business, including Perry, a freshman, who filled the stat sheet with 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
"We kept our heads, stayed up and took it to the basket," Perry said. "In that situation, playing with four, we want to drive the ball, get to the line and catch our breath."
It was the fifth straight game that Cecil has opened with just five players. Amazingly, the Seahawks have won four of the games, including another one when they finished four on five.
"We actually trailed in that game and came back," Diamond said of a victory over Anne Arundel Community College.
When Wailes (six points, eight rebounds) fouled out on Saturday, whistled for an offensive charge, Cecil had a 46-29 lead.
HCC (5-13, 1-8) appeared energized by the good fortune as freshman Makaylah McDonald (16 points, 15 rebounds) scored on a putback and Briana Alongi soon followed with a pair of free throws.
But Thompson (22 points, five assists) and Smith (16 points, nine rebounds, three steals) steadied Cecil, driving for back-to-back layups.
When Haley Krone (eight points six rebounds) made a layup and Smith followed with a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, Cecil had a 62-38 lead.
Alexis Harris (16 points, 12 rebounds) hit a field goal and added a free throw to give the Hawks hope. But in a span of 10 nightmarish possessions, HCC produced just one point, while Cecil stretched its lead to as many as 25 points.
Over the final 15:45, Cecil outscored HCC 26-19.
While HCC kept five players on the floor, the Hawks also were depleted and gassed by the end. They opened the game with seven players and were down to six when Janae Holman (six points) fouled out with 5:47 left.
With a pair of 3-pointers, Holman had given HCC a lead late in the first quarter, 16-14.
But from there it was all Cecil, even with just four on the floor. The Seahawks finished the game with Smith and Krone saddled with four fouls each.
"I keep telling them to be discipled, be disciplined," Diamond said. "Some of them listen. We had one foul out. We haven't had to go three on five yet this year, fortunately. Knock on wood."