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MDJUCO Men's Basketball Tournament: #3 Fighting Owls Sink #6 Lakers

MDJUCO Men's Basketball Tournament: #3 Fighting Owls Sink #6 Lakers

By Mario Diaz and Robert Eriksen

Hagerstown, Md. – Jaedon Willis hit a three-pointer with one minute left in regulation to put Harford ahead by eight and the Fighting Owls held off the Garrett Lakers surge to win 65-59 the first quarterfinal game of the Maryland Juco Men's Basketball Tournament.

Willis finished with just eight points, but his only made three helped propel Harford to the semifinals.

"There were a lot of plays that I thought were 50-50 plays," said Harford head coach Mike Smelkinson. "The charge that was overturned to a block was a big play, but then Garrett responded after that and tied it up. But I don't think there was any one turning point of the game."

Kenneth Sumpter led the Fighting Owls with 12 points (5-10). Khalil Williams-Diggins (3-5) and Kevin Perry (4-6) each had 10 points.

Garrett's Devin Wilkerson scored a double-double, as he finished with a game-high 20 points on 7-12 shooting and 12 rebounds.

The Fighting Owls were able to hold Wilkerson in check in the second half, allowing him to score just six points.

Zakeem Davis also finished in double figures for the Lakers with 14 points (4-15). He added five rebounds and five assists.

The two teams began the game exchanging 3 point attempts.

Harford's Naquan Williams- Day hit back-to-back threes to give them a 6-0 lead early.

Early ball movement by the Fighting Owls led to open shots on offense, while defending well and contesting Garrett's shot-attempts.  

While both teams made multiple three pointers early, Garrett relied heavily on the three ball, shooting 5-14 (35.7%) in the first half. 

Harford's poor free throw shooting kept the deficit for Garrett at five points at the break, as Harford hit just 1-of-6 (16.7%) attempts. 

Garrett had challenges of their own with defending in transition and turnovers, as they gave the ball up three times in the final two minutes of the first half.

Harford dominated points in the paint with a 20-6 margin in the first half. They finished outscoring the Lakers 38-24.

Garrett came out of the locker room on a mission to gain the lead and set themselves up for a productive half against the Owls.

The Lakers started on a 7-0 run to gain a 34-32 advantage after starting the half down 32-27.

The Fighting Owls responded with an 8-0 run of its own, highlighted by a Sumpter dunk. This swing in momentum allowed Harford to regain the lead 44-36.

The Owls continued to dominate Garrett in the paint. With 10 minutes left in regulation, the Fighting Owls had doubled Garrett's output in the paint at 28-14. 

Isaiah Boggs converted what was originally called an offensive foul into a three-point play to distance the Fighting Owls 49-40 with under 10 left to play.

Garrett did not stop fighting.

Wilkerson scored his 20th point of the day to bring the Garrett within three with eight minutes left. On their next possession, Strahinja Ivic sunk a three-pointer to tie the game at 49-49 and cap off a 9-0 Lakers' run.

Turnovers proved to be the difference for Garrett, as 20 turnovers led to 23 Harford points.

Late fouls allowed the Fighting Owls to put the game away.

Harford improved its free throw shooting in the second half, hitting all 12 attempts and finishing 13-18 (72.2%) from the charity stripe.

Harford plays in tomorrow's semifinal round against the winner of Allegany versus Frederick, being played at the time this article was published. Tipoff scheduled for 5 p.m.