HAGERSTOWN — Reggie Baker had 24 points and Derylton Hill put together 19 rebounds and 16 points to lead Potomac State to a 74-69 win over top-seeded Howard Sunday during the NJCAA Region XX-A Championship at Hagerstown Community College.
Baker’s performance helped him take home the tournament’s most valuable player award, and Hill and Marcus Banks earned all-tournament selections after Banks finished with 21 points and five rebounds.
The Catamounts stumbled early on and was on the wrong end of a 9-point difference less than 10 minutes in. Potomac State quickly turned that around and not only caught up with the Hawks, but took a 15-point lead into halftime.
“We knew it was going to be a physical game from the beginning,” PSC head coach Justin Anderson said. “We wanted to put an emphasis on being tougher and battling for the entire 40 minutes, and after getting over the jitters early on that’s how we performed.”
Howard came out in the second half and turned to a full-court pressure that helped them slowly dig into Potomac State’s lead.
They began to go on a run with 15 minutes to play and after the Cats called two quick timeouts, the Hawks were able to cut the lead to seven points.
They were within three points with a minute left, but Banks, Hill and Baker were able to hit free throws that maintained the lead.
“Right now we are just cherishing the moment,” Anderson said, “but the few things we talked about from the beginning of the year was to play smart, play together and play all the time. We are now in position to be playing as late in the year as any team in the country and that is very exciting.”
Olukayube Ajenifuja led Howard with 23 points.
Potomac State (20-8) will travel to Danville, Ill. to play in the Division II National Tournament beginning on March 18.
It is the first region championship for the Cats since 1978.
“We told the guys that they have the chance to be able to do something very special. So far they’ve been able to remember that it is the little things that make champions.”