NORTH EAST, Md. - The Potomac State Catamounts advanced to Sunday's Region XX Division Two Championship game with a first-round 75-58 victory over Chesapeake on Friday, followed by a 73-65 Saturday defeat of Frederick Community College. The victory over Frederick avenged what had been the Catamounts' only loss of the season.
By Chapin Jewell
NORTH EAST, Md. - The Potomac State Catamounts advanced to Sunday’s Region XX Division Two Championship game with a first-round 75-58 victory over Chesapeake on Friday, followed by a 73-65 Saturday defeat of Frederick Community College. The victory over Frederick avenged what had been the Catamounts’ only loss of the season.
All that stood between Potomac State and a trip to the national tournament was the streaking Cecil College Seahawks, the tournament host. Unfortunately for Potomac State, Cecil’s outstanding play and whatever benefits playing on their home court afforded them, contributed to a 91-73 loss for the Catamounts, denying them a trip to the national tournament.
While a trip to Nationals would have certainly been the proverbial icing on the cake, nothing can detract away from what has been an otherwise magical 28 wins against two losses season for Potomac State.
Cecil was playing their best basketball of the season in the tournament. This was evidenced by their lopsided 84-55 first-round tournament upset of third-seeded Garrett and 64-57 win over ninth-ranked nationally Beaver County, the tournament’s second seed. This was their second victory over Beaver in three days.
The Seahawks got off to an explosive first-half start, scoring 58 points while allowing only 33 from top-ranked Potomac State. The difference maker was shooting percentage. Cecil shot a blazing 61 percent from the floor, hitting 23 of the 38 shots they attempted. By contrast, the Catamounts shot less than half that effectively (29 percent), nailing only 10 of 35 shots from the field.
In the first half, both teams shot 50 percent from three-point range, but Cecil made four three-pointers compared to two for the Catamounts. But again, the disparity in field goal percentage (61 percent to 29 percent) was the difference.
Potomac State traveled well, despite the three and a half hour trip to Cecil College from Keyser. There was plenty of Blue and Gold support in the gym. Despite that, the majority home crowd was egged on in their exuberance as Cecil drained shot after shot in the game’s first 20 minutes.
Facing a 25-point deficit entering the second half, Potomac State had by no means thrown in the towel. In fact, the Catamounts mounted a spirited comeback attempt. Slowly but surely, they ate into Cecil’s big lead. Four and a half minutes into the second half, the 25 point Cecil lead had dipped to 18 (60-42). By the 12:40 mark of the second half, Potomac State’s run took them to within 10 points of the Seahawks (60-50).
From that point forward, however, Cecil stopped the bleeding and extended their lead back to 20 points. With a full two minutes to play, both teams brought in reserves with the game well in hand. Despite Potomac State’s amazing success on the season, it just wasn’t going to happen on this day as Cecil secured the 91-73 victory.
Potomac State played a much better second half, outscoring the home team 40-33. In fact, the tables turned drastically in the second half in terms of shooting percentage, with the Catamounts shooting twice as effectively from the field, hitting 17 of 41 shots (41 percent), compared to paltry 22 percent for Cecil (8-36). It was just too little, too late to overcome the 25 point halftime deficit.
Cecil led in most every category. The Seahawks edged the Catamounts in points in the paint (46 to 42), points off turnovers (19 to 17), second chance points (15 to 13), bench points (35 to 13), field goal percentage (42 percent to 36 percent), and three-point percentage (37 percent to 32 percent).
In the victory, Cecil College was led by brothers Cornell and Hassan Corbin with 21 points apiece. Both earned double-doubles as Cornell pulled down 12 rebounds and Hassan 10. Also scoring in double figures for the Seahawks was Shylier Ringgold with 16 points, followed by Jacob Falko with 12. Ringgold was named to the all-tournament team, Cornell Corbin was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
Potomac State was led in the loss by Leondre Rogers with 19 points, followed closely by Calvin Wilder with 15. Also scoring in double figures for the Catamounts was James Moore and Cortney Walton with 12 points each. Leondre Rogers and Cortney Walton were named to the all-tournament team.
The loss to Cecil concludes a sensational season for the Potomac State Catamounts, unrivaled in school history. Obviously, the thing that sticks out most is the overall record of 28-2, that’s a winning percentage of 93 percent overall for the season. That includes a jaw-dropping regular season record of 26-1, that’s a regular season winning percentage of 96 percent. That outstanding regular season performance earned the Catamounts the regular season championship of the Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference.
While there were a multitude of noteworthy wins throughout the season, perhaps none was more memorable than the 98-95 victory over local rival Allegany College for their 23rd straight win to open the season. Memorable not just because of the win itself, but as much because of the excitement and enthusiasm generated inside the Allegany College gym from the throngs of Catamount fans that outnumbered the home crowd in numbers and exuberance. Looking back, the win is even more impressive now that Allegany has advanced to the Division One National Tournament.
Also of note is that Potomac State’s first loss came at the hands of Frederick Community College on Feb. 25, by a score of 87-74. The Catamounts were able to avenge that loss on Saturday, beating Frederick 75-67 to advance to the Region XX Final.
While locally, and perhaps regionally, the win streak and victory over Allegany College drew attention and recognition; Potomac State’s number one national ranking for multiple weeks brought national attention to the Potomac State basketball program, the school itself, the State of West Virginia, Mineral County, and the City of Keyser.
Perhaps most special of all is the fact that on their 15 person roster, nine of the Catamounts’ players hail from the State of West Virginia, with three of those nine being raised in Mineral County - two from Keyser and one from Frankfort. Add to the mix the captain of the ship, head coach and athletic director Shawn White, himself being a Keyser native.
Coach White has went out of this way to thank the school and community for their support throughout the season. Potomac State Basketball has given all of Mineral County something they can be genuinely proud of this year, and the community has responded in kind.
Earlier this season, Shawn White stated, “I am very happy for the exposure that our basketball success has brought to Potomac State. Potomac State is a great institution; there’s over a 100 years of pride and history up there on that hill in Keyser.”
Shawn White is 100 percent correct, and we can now add the success and accolades accompanying the unrivaled success of this year’s basketball team to the annals of that pride and history.