By Paul Gotham
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – This one was about patience and redemption and passage.
The Monroe Community College men’s basketball team, which lost its season opener and struggled through its first nine games, finds itself back where they were one year ago – on their way to the District 2 championship game.
Region III Tournament MVP Tashawn Desir (Brooklyn, N.Y./NIA School) led four in double figures as the No. 14 MCC Tribunes defeated the No. 19 Genesee Community College Cougars 79-74 to claim the Region III D2 title Sunday afternoon at George Monagan Court.
Desir netted a dozen after the break as the Tribunes extended an eight-point halftime lead and held on for their second regional title in as many years.
“It feels good right now,” the 5-10 sophomore guard said. “We came a long way. Everything came together at the right time.”
Desir tallied a team-high 18 on 8-of-17 shooting shooting including a pair of threes to give Monroe its largest lead of the game with 8:09 remaining.
“We’ve grown as a team over the course of the year,” Desir said. “Everybody stepped up.”
Anthony Hemingway (Brooklyn, N.Y./NIA School) found his teammate open on the break with one of his four assists for the day as Desir converted a catch-and-shoot jumper. Desir followed that with a “heat check” trey from 25 feet, and Monroe led 63-47.
But Naquil Jones (Philadelphia, PA) led a Genesee rally. The 6-3 guard hit back-to-back threes to cap a 9-2 run and cut the lead to five at 70-65 with 1:50 remaining in the game.
It was then that Marcus Gooding (Brooklyn, N.Y./ Franklin Delano Roosevelt) took over for the Black and Gold. The little-used guard completed a rare four-point play when he nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner as he was fouled in the act.
“That four-point play was real big,” Desir stated. “It kinda took the energy out of the other team. They were coming back. They had momentum.”
“That was huge,” Monroe coach Jerry Burns stated. “That put us back up seven into that comfort zone.”
Gooding played just six minutes in Saturday’s semi-final. The sophomore guard has filled the role as Monroe’s sharp-shooter off the bench when opposing teams play zone defense. There haven’t been many opportunities of late. He hasn’t played double-digit minutes in Monroe’s past four games – a span which stretches back to February eighth.
“It’s difficult, man, to be honest,” Gooding said of the time spent waiting for a chance. “I have faith in my team, and they always encourage me.”
Gooding finished the game with 12 points on 3-of-4 shooting behind the arc and 3-of-5 at the free throw line.
“I was just waiting for a good look the whole game,” Gooding explained. “Throughout the whole year I’ve been able to take advantage of the open looks. What better time than the championship of the Regionals.”
Gooding’s bucket might not have happened had Artice Jackson (Owings Mills, MD/Milford Mill Academy) made a a different choice. The 6-6 forward fed his teammate after giving up a wide-open look at the basket.
“I know I wasn’t hitting shots,” Jackson stated. “Marcus is the best shooter on our team by far. If he’s not making shots, he’s going to shoot until he makes a shot. I put my faith in him, and he hit it.”
GCC fought back again.
Jones converted a traditional three-point play and made four consecutive free throws to pull Genesee with three at 77-74 with 8.3 on the clock.
Hemingway sealed the victory with two from the charity stripe.
“I felt we were prepared to play,” Burns commented. ” We just got a little lackadaisical at the end. We could have finished out a little bit stronger.”
Monroe moves on to play Dean College next Saturday for the right to compete in the NJCAA National Tournament.
“I was telling my son, Ross,” Burns continued. “It’s a W. You take it any way you can this time of year.”
Jackson blocked a game-high six shots and affected at least that many.
“When they see him coming from the other side, he alters the shot,” Burns said. “He really was a presence coming over to punch those shots and make guys think.”
“When Genesee’s guards were driving to the rim, they weren’t kicking it out,” Jackson explained. “They really weren’t shooting many 3-pointers.”
Hemingway scored 17 for Monroe, and TJ Davis (Liverpool, N.Y./Liverpool) added 10 with a game-high nine rebounds.
Jones posted a game-high 33 for Genesee. Ervin Mitchell (Brooklyn, N.Y.) chipped in 19 points and eight boards.
MCC fought back from a first half deficit.
Jones paced Genesee to an early lead. The freshman guard scored in transition, hit a pullup jumper from the free throw line and connected on one of two charity tosses for a 7-3 GCC lead with 16:11 to go in the stanza.
Davis hit a catch-and-shoot trey. Hemingway used a wing ball screen to get into the lane for a bucket, and Davis stripped the ensuing inbound and went to the rack for the deuce and a 12-11 MCC edge.
Mitchell answered with a pull-up jumper, but Gooding connected on his first 3 of the day, and Monroe had a lead it never surrendered at 15-13.
The Tribs scored five straight to grab a double-digit lead at 37-26 late in the first half. Davis converted a pair of free throws. Jackson took a kickout from Hemingway and drilled a trey from the right corner.
Cole hit a pair from the stripe and Jones scored on the break for GCC to trim the lead to five.
Hemingway nailed a 3-pointer late for a 40-32 MCC lead at the break.
Genesee outrebounded Monroe 40-34. GCC scored 16 points off turnovers to Monroe’s eight.
The title was the 11th for Monroe – 10 of which have come under Burns.
Genesee claimed regional championships in 2002 and 2003.
Monroe opened the season losing at home to Finger Lakes CC. MCC started 5-4.
Hemingway and Jackson joined Desir on the All-Tournament team. Jones and Mitchell represented GCC along with Stefano Osuji from ECC.
Monroe and Dean College will tip off at noon next Saturday.