CCRI men headed to NJCAA hoop nationals

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By ED OWENS Sports Reporter
The CCRI men's basketball program is back in familiar territory, but with an entirely new set of faces.
The Knights won both games of the Northeast District Tournament on Saturday and Sunday to advance to the NJCAA national tournament. CCRI has enjoyed great success in the past, but for third year head coach Dave Chevalier and a brand new team, the Knights are breaking new ground.
“We haven't been to the nationals in four years,” Chevalier said. “It is a whole new team, too. None of the kids played on this team last year. This is their first experience at that level so it should be interesting to see what we do.”
CCRI punched its ticket to the national tournament with a 64-56 win over Lackawanna College on Sunday. The score was tied at 56-56 with just over three minutes left to play when CCRI's defense stepped up to shut out the Falcons the rest of the game. The Knights used an 8-0 run in the final 1:30 to close out Lackawanna and win the Northeast District Championship.
“That [8-0 run] was set up by our defense,” Chevalier said. “We didn't allow them to score and got rebounds to keep them from getting a second shot. In the first half they really hurt us with second and third shots. We weren't doing a good job of blocking out. But once we decided to hold them to just one shot the game really played in our favor. They need more than one shot to beat us.”
Lackawanna managed to keep things close for most of the game thanks to the sharp shooting of freshman guard Manny Urbilla. Urbilla knocked down five three-pointers (four in the first half) and finished the game with a game-high 17 points. But CCRI increased the pressure on Urbilla, using defensive standout Kenny Jones in the second half. The Knights' defense held Urbilla to just three points after the break.
“If [Urbilla] kept shooting like that we weren't going to win, that's for sure,” Chevalier said. “We had to shut him down. The kids did a real good job of helping Kenny Jones to shut him down. We just had to help him, and it worked. To hold them to 56 points is unbelievable defense. I believe that Lackawanna was ranked sixth or seventh in the country. That was a tall order. We really had to dig in today. We were tired from yesterday but down the stretch we played really good defense. Defense was the name of the game [Lackawanna] scored 100 points beating Dean [on Saturday] and we held them to 56. That was the key right there.”
Sophomore co-captain and tournament MVP Alex Owumi led the Knights with 17 points, but CCRI had strong contributions from all of its starters. Jones and Marvin Owens each scored 14 points and freshman Darrell Taylor added 11.
While the Knights starters are outstanding, CCRI could suffer because of its short bench in the national tournament. Of its 11 players on roster, only six saw the court for the Knights in two games over the weekend.
“We don't have a lot of depth,” Chevalier said. “I think that our starting five could play anybody, but it is once we get past that things start to get a little hairy. Winning back-to-back games this weekend was very difficult for us. Our problem is going to be playing back-to-back games in the national tournament.”
CCRI advanced to the championship game with a 77-56 win over Orange County Community College in the semifinals on Saturday. The Knights jumped out to an early led and built up a 42-29 advantage at halftime. The Colts cut their deficit to eight in the second half, but that was as close as they got. Taylor poured in a game-high 23 points and shot 15-for-17 from the free throw line.
CCRI will travel to Danfield, Ill. to participate in the NJCAA national tournament next week.
“We are going to face teams as good as [Lackawanna] and some that are even better,” Chevalier said. “But that doesn't bother us because we play such a good schedule. We play a national schedule. We play seven Division I junior colleges. As good as [Lackawanna] is, we have played at least six teams better than them. That gets us used to top-notch competition so that we know what it takes to win once we get to this level.”

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