Men’s Basketball Wins Regional Championship
For the first time since 2013 and just the second time in program history, the Howard Community College men's basketball team qualified for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) championship with a 104-85 win over Community College of Baltimore County’s Dundalk campus in the regional finals.
CCBC-Dundalk took the early lead with a three pointer to start the game, but the HCC Dragons answered right back to start an exciting first half. The two teams exchanged leads a couple of times back-and-forth before sophomore guard Michael Gray hit a three pointer on the left wing that would give the Dragons a 14-13 lead that would not be relinquished.
HCC built their lead up to 49-36 at halftime and went on to shoot 65% from the field in the second half. With time running down, Dragons freshman center Paris Young was able to make a fast break layup for his first points of the season to end the game in heartwarming fashion for the fans. Sophomore Naquan Williams-Day was named the MVP of the tournament after scoring a combined 53 points in the three victories that earned HCC the championship.
“The regional championship was a result of hard work from everyone involved with this team; from the assistant coaches to the managers to the players,” said Mike Smelkinson, head coach. “Everyone was on the same page and shared a common goal and we had a special blend of super talented players who wanted to win. Our athletic staff put together a first-class tournament and their efforts to put on a great event helped us to conclude the season with an exclamation point.”
The Dragons were named the winners of the NJCAA Division II Region 20 and Mid-Atlantic District championships as they earned a bid to the national tournament in Danville, Illinois. This is just the second time HCC has made the national tournament. The first time was also under Coach Smelkinson, who returned to HCC this season after spending five years at Harford Community College.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Howard Community College made the difficult decision to end the athletics season on March 12, 2020. All spring sports activities were canceled for the remainder of the spring season, and the Dragons were unable to participate in the national tournament, which was canceled a few days later.
“Since the day Coach Mike stepped back on to HCC campus last summer, he’s been working tirelessly to improve every aspect of the men’s basketball program,” said Erin Foley, director of athletics. “His strong reputation in the basketball coaching community speaks volumes to prospective student-athletes who are looking for a high quality collegiate basketball experience. We are so excited about the future of the program with Coach Mike at the helm.”