MCCC Menís Basketball Team Advances to Region 19 Championship
MORRIS COUNTY – The Mercer County Community College (MCCC) men’s basketball team won its 15th consecutive game Thursday night, knocking off Lackawanna 65-59 in the semi-finals of the Region 19 Tournament and advancing to the championship round.
The Mercer Vikings will take on Essex County College Saturday (Feb. 28) at 1:30 p.m. at the County College of Morris for the Region 19 Championship. The winner advances to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II national tournament in Danville, Ill., March 17-21.
After a strong start in the Lackawanna match-up, the Mercer team gave up the lead and trailed at halftime, 29-26. But the Vikings came back strong in the second half and took a 45-42 lead with 11 minutes left to play, closing out the contest with a 65-59 victory.
“Lackawanna has been a tough match-up for us this year with all of the games being close and hard fought,” said Vikings Head Coach Howard Levy. “I thought we let down after starting the game well, and our defense suffered, allowing Lackawanna to take the lead. The effort was better in the second half and the guys hung in there, like they have all year.”
Mercer's Daquan Hargrove drives past two Essex County College defenders during a home game Dec. 4. Mercer and Essex will battle for the Region 19 championship Feb. 28 in Morris County.
David Johnson led the Vikings last night with 19 points and 9 rebounds and Tyliek Kimbrough added 17 points in the win. Daquan Hargrove had a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The Vikings are now 23-3 on the season and ranked 15th nationally in the NJCAA Division II poll. But Levy notes that the path to the national tournament doesn’t get any easier: Of Mercer’s three losses, one of them was to Essex, which is ranked 10th in the nation. Mercer later avenged that loss in a Jan. 20 rematch.
“Essex presents an exciting challenge, as they have a tremendous size advantage,” Levy said. “Both teams have had terrific seasons and both teams deserve a bid to the national tournament, but only one will advance. We will do everything we can to keep the season going.”
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