CCBC Essex Women Basketball Wins Trip to NJCAA DII Tournament

-Article & photo courtesy of CCBC Athletics-

The CCBC Essex Knights women’s basketball team defeated CCBC Catonsville 63-61 on Saturday to become back-to-back-to-back Region 20 DII champions, and earning their spot in the NJCAA National Championship Tournament in Joplin, Missouri.

Both teams knew from the start that the game would be a grind and the events of the contest proved that to be true. The Cardinals got the first possession from the tip, but the Knights would be the first on the board with a layup from freshman Deb Okechukwu. Each team recorded another two points in each of their next possessions before freshman Alana Powell drained a three from sophomore Ashley Dickey.

The Cardinals answered with a jump shot and another layup to cut the lead back to one. Okechukwu would score another layup and then it would be a back-and-forth battle for over the next minute without either team scoring. A Cardinals layup would cut the lead back to one, but once again Okechukwu was the answer for CCBC Essex. She would step to the line and make two free throws to regain the Knights three-point lead with four minutes left in the first quarter.

On the Knights next possession, Powell found sophomore Kierran Walker for a three, doubling their lead. A few possessions later, Okechukwu would match the Cardinals total team points with another layup.

With less than three minutes left, the Knights offense stalled. CCBC Catonsville would go on to make four free throws and a late layup to end the quarter trailing the Knight by only two points once again.

The Cardinals trailing the Knights 16-14 at the start of the second quarter wouldn’t last long as jump shot evened the game at 16 points. Powell responded with the Knights third three of the game to regain the lead, but the Cardinals answered with a jumper of their own to cut the lead back to one. This would be the closest the Cardinals were to overtaking the Knights, but that’s not to say the Cardinals were ever out of reach.

Sophomore Heather Middleton would record her first points of the game with a layup, and then get back in the scoring column with a three-points from Walker after over two minutes of scoreless basketball. A Dickey layup and two made free throws from Walker game the Knights their biggest lead of the game so far, 28-18.

The Cardinals then went on a 10-5 run to close out the first half. Sophomore Khalia Bryant scored all 5 of those Knights points to give CCBC Essex the 33-28 lead going into halftime.

Middleton continued to be an offensive presence in the paint for CCBC Essex with another layup from an offensive rebound. A jumper from Dickey added to the Knights lead but the Cardinals would answer with a three. CCBC Essex went on an 11-5 run the first six minutes of the half to give them their largest lead of the game 44-33. Dickey recorded seven of those eleven points for the Knights.

The Cardinals would then go on their own run 10-8 in the last three minutes of the quarter to cut the Knights lead back to nine. CCBC Essex led 52-43 with 10 minutes remaining in the game, but as the first 30 minutes proved, the Cardinals would not make a win easy for the Knights.

The Knights would be outscored 18-11 in the final frame, but there wasn’t enough time for the Cardinals to complete the comeback. CCBC Essex would hold off the pressure to secure the victory, 63-61.

The Knights didn’t shoot as well as the Cardinals from the field and from behind the arc. What the Knights were able to do was shoot 17-17 from the line, out-rebound the Cardinals, and win in the battle of second chance points.

Dickey, Okechukwu, Powell, and Walker all finished in double-digit points, while Middleton lead the team with 10 rebounds. Walker’s 11 points off the bench were the only bench points scored by the Knights in the game.

During the postgame awards, Dickey and Okechukwu were named to the All-Tournament team, and Powell was named the tournament MVP. This win gives the Knights their fourth regional title in as many seasons since the program’s restart in 2019. This is also head coach Mike Seney’s ninth consecutive regional title.

With the Knights winning the regional title, they’ve earned a spot in the NJCAA DII National Tournament hosted in Joplin, Missouri March 18-23. The Knights received an overall fourth seed and a first-round bye. They will play the winner of 13 PIMA and 20 Costal Alabama North on March 19.


B.J. Joseph

Benjamin Joesph has covered news in Eastern Baltimore County since 2006. He started as a reporter with the original East County Times in 2006. He started East Baltco News and later in 2022.