Defense wins games.
Jamestown Community College men's basketball coach Mike Cordovano constantly preaches that to his Jayhawks and they saw what he was talking about on Wednesday night.
In a first-half offensive free-for-all, JCC trailed the CC of Allegheny Cougars, 47-45, as most of the fans were wondering if either team could play defense.
Kenny Stokes of Jamestown Community College fires a 3-point shot during Wednesday night's NJCAA men's basketball game against CC of Allegheny County. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
In the second half, both teams showed they could and JCC did it a bit better. The Jayhawks won the second half, 29-26, to win the game, 74-73.
''This is a young team and all they've done is hear me in practice for a month talk about how we need to defend and our history of playing defense,'' Cordovano said. ''It seems like they didn't believe me and now they're realizing it.''
Both teams shot more than 60 percent from 3-point range in the first half as JCC had 11 treys and CCAC five.
''When teams play us man, we shoot quick within one or two passes, so now we're going to give up points because of the amount of possessions,'' Cordovano said. ''But this first half today, there were fewer possessions because they played zone and they made us move the basketball. Did we shoot the heck out of the ball in the first half, but that's all we were, a three-point shooting team and that showed it wasn't going to last us a whole game.''
So the message was made clear at halftime.
''I just told the kids, 'You don't defend, you're coming out,''' Cordovano said. ''And we did pull some people when they didn't hold up their end at the defensive end.''
And the result was better defense led to a win for JCC, an NJCAA Division II team, which is now 2-3. The Cougars, who play in Division III, are 1-2.
''I still think we're learning to play with each other because we've only had Davonte (Dunham) for less than a week now and he's turned into being an important part of our program,'' Cordovano said, about the freshman who led the Jayhawks with 24 points. ''He had a solid game offensively, but he can improve so much defensively.''
Right behind Dunham was Tyreek Jewell with 22 points and nine rebounds. The freshman from the Bronx came into the game as the co-leader in scoring average for all of NJCAA Division II with 32 points per game and was tied for sixth in rebounding with 12.
Kenny Stokes had 14 points for the Jayhawks and Calvin Sterling picked up 10 assists.
JCC's first five baskets were 3-pointers and that was a sign of things to come. It finished the half with 13 field goals and 11 were 3s.
However, there weren't enough 3s in the early minutes as Allegheny led, 17-12, after six minutes of play.
Cordovano didn't like what he saw on the scoreboard as about a minute later he was pointing out to his players, ''Nineteen points (allowed) in seven minutes!''
The Cougars stayed at 19 for a while when the Jayhawks ran off eight straight points to take a 23-19 lead.
But Allegheny answered right back with nine straight for a 28-23 lead and the lead continued to seesaw for the rest of the half.
While the Jayhawks were using five 3-pointers from Jewell, who finished the half with 16 points, and four from Dunham, who had 18, the Cougars countered with Marcus Smith, who had 19 points at halftime.
After 20 minutes, Allegheny held a slim, 47-45, lead and Cordovano gave his talk about playing defense in the second half.
The pace slowed quite a bit and in the first 10 minutes only 27 points had been scored by both teams and the Cougars led, 62-57. It was quite a change from the first half when the scoreboard changes resembled a pinball machine.
''They matched up more on the perimeter, it was almost like a man-to-man,'' Cordovano said. ''In the first half there were a lot of holes in it (the zone defense), but in the second half they pretty much played us man on the wing and we changed a little bit and it was kind of a cat-and-mouse game.''
A concern for JCC was that its only two returning sophomores, Stokes and Sterling, had three fouls each after nine minutes and Stokes picked up his fourth with five minutes left and the Jayhawks trailing, 66-64.
Fortunately for JCC, Marcus Smith of Allegheny was charged with his fourth foul with four minutes to play when the Jayhawks were trailing by five, 71-66.
Then they scored eight straight points on a two-pointer by Ed Newell, a 3-pointer by Stokes and a three-point play by Dunham, which came after Smith fouled out with 1:15 left to play after scoring 22 points.
''Smith is as good a player as we're going to face all year,'' Cordovano said. ''Not only is he a scorer, but he holds that team together and they missed his leadership in that last couple of minutes. They missed his presence. Had he been there, it could easily have been a different ending.''
Gerald Richardson scored for the Cougars with a minute left to cut the JCC lead to 74-73. With 25 seconds remaining, Dunham missed a jumper for the Jayhawks and Allegheny grabbed the rebound and called a timeout with 22.5 seconds left.
The Cougars worked the ball into the right corner and called another timeout with 10.2 seconds left to set up a play for the winning shot.
The ball was inbounded to Tyron Underwood, who attempted to drive into the lane, but failed to get a shot off thanks to the defense of Dunham, and time expired.
''I thought they were going to throw it in to the post and they didn't,'' Cordovano said. ''They tried to get it off ball screen and we were just there. We defended that well.''
It was a much-needed win for the Jayhawks.
''We came out of playing two big-time teams in a tough weekend (two losses at the Frederick CC Tournament) and we have another tough weekend coming up and we are facing another national program in Columbus State,'' Cordovano said. ''With our schedule, wins are hard to come by, so when we get a team at home we've got to hold service and we did just enough to do that tonight.''
The Jayhawks return to action on Friday at the Columbus State CC Tournament against host Columbus State at 8 p.m. On Saturday at 1 p.m., the Jayhawks will play Ohio State-Newark.
Long 1 0-0 3, Karrison 1 1-2 3, Washington 0 0-0 0, Chatman 3 1-3 7, Smith 9 0-0 22, Richardson 4 1-2 9, Underwood 3 0-0 7, McKenna 8 5-6 22, Mills 0 0-0 0, Totals 29 8-13 73.
Dunham 7 5-6 24, Hill 0 0-0 0, Newell 3 0-0 6, Clarke 0 0-0 0, Jewell 7 3-5 22, Forrest 2 0-0 5, Stokes 4 3-4 14, Sterling 1 0-0 3, Garrett 0 0-0 0, Totals 24 11-18 74.
Halftime-Allegheny 47, JCC 45. 3-point goals-Long, Smith 4, Underwood, McKenna, Dunham 5, Jewell 5, Forrest, Stokes 3, Sterling. Total fouls-Allegheny 14, JCC 12. Fouled out-Smith.