By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A battle of nationally-ranked foes lived up to its billing.
Omar Williams led three in double figures, and the No. 8 Monroe Community College men’s basketball team outlasted the No. 18 Northern Virginia Community College Nighthawks, 84-80 in the MCC Kickoff Classic on George Monagan Court, Friday night.
Williams scored 15 of his team-high 22 in the first half as Monroe raced to an early 24-point advantage. The 6-0 sophomore point guard was the catalyst in a 26-8 run.
“He did a good job facilitating,” Monroe head coach Jerry Burns said. “I thought it was pass first, basket second. That’s what he did, and that’s why we got up by so much.”
Williams nailed a three-pointer from the right corner late in the shot clock to give Monroe its’ first double-digit advantage at 16-6. Later, his pull-up three from the top of the arc made it 34-13 as the Tribs scored on 11 of 13 possessions.
“It was our first home game,” Williams noted. “Everybody came out with the energy to start.”
But the lead quickly evaporated.
Northern Virginia’s Emmanuel Miller converted a pair of free throws and finished a baseline drive to cut the deficit to 10 at 45-35. Addison Burgess scored off the dribble, and Andreas Nikantzam finished a rebound and outback to send the teams into the locker rooms at 46-39.
“We got totally away from our defensive effort,” Burns stated. “Then we started turning the ball over. The lead went from 20 to seven in a heartbeat. As a coach I have to take responsibility for that. You just can’t accept that.”
Northern Virginia opened the second half on a 10-2 run. Jordan Jones went baseline for a deuce to give the Nighthawks their first lead of the game at 49-48.
“I have to take some blame for subbing way too early,” Burns added. “Then we tried to put guys back in and you lose your sweat, and that hurts also.”
“The second half we weren’t focused,” Williams explained. “Too many turnovers to start the half. We got to keep the light switch on the whole game. We can’t be on one minute and off another. A team comes back like that, and we’re not in a good shooting rhythm or not finishing it’s going to be bad. We got to keep it on the whole game.”
Williams delivered again for the Tribunes scoring on back-to-back plays to regain the lead and push it to seven. He grabbed a Tremaine Carter tap out on the offensive end and finished a layup. Next trip down the floor, Carter came through again on the offensive glass with another feed to Williams. This time the sophomore nailed one of his three three-pointers on the night.
“Those were huge plays,” Burns said of Carter’s work on the offensive glass. “We were struggling. I thought our offense kinda grinded down. We got some good shots. Guys we were wide open just didn’t make it. You create a second opportunity like that and it puts them on the defense for a longer period of time. Those tap outs made the difference.”
Monroe led 61-54.
Northern Virginia eventually made it a four-point game with a chance to cut the lead to two. MCC’s Kewan Platt had two consecutive blocks to take away any chance Northern Virginia had.
“That was an important defensive effort,” Burns said of Platt. “He needs to play more minutes. He got in foul trouble early.”
Platt finished the game with 12 points, three blocks, four rebounds and two assists. Devonte Dixon added 11 points and three assists. Carter led the black and gold with seven rebounds.
Northern Virginia’s Tariq Felder led all scorers with 23. Wesley Hardaway added 14. Burgess had 12. Miller and Trevaun Hyatt scored 10 apiece.
The Tribunes will play No. 6 Schoolcraft College, Saturday. A 3 p.m. tip time is scheduled on Monagan Court.
Schoolcraft (Region XII) finished 23-12 last season. After winning the District X championship, the Ocelots lost to South Suburban, 79-76 in the NJCAA Division II quarter-finals.
Northern Virginia (Region XX) finished 19-6 a year ago.
Northern Virginia will play Genesee Community College at 1 p.m..