For the second straight season, the Montgomery College women's basketball team is heading to the National Junior College Athletic Association's Division III national tournament.
On Saturday, the Raptors cruised to a 72-36 victory over visiting Middle Georgia Technical College in the Region G championship game.
“This feels great,” sophomore guard Jameelah Thalley said. “We've been through a lot and accomplished a lot. We've really come together as a team.”
Montgomery College, the eighth-ranked team in the country, will play a yet to be determined opponent in the eight-team tournament March 14-16 at University Center Rochester in Minnesota. Each team is guaranteed three games and the national champion will be crowned.
Six different Raptors scored on Saturday, including four starters recording double-digit points. Freshman Angelica Ceccone (Walt Whitman graduate) scored 13 of her game-high 17 points in the second half. Sophomores Thalley (15, Bethesda-Chevy Chase), Kapria Redparth (10, Takoma Academy) and Jocelyn Martin (13, Northwestern) also contributed. Classmate and starting point guard Jartu Toweh (Watkins Mill) recorded nine points.
Montgomery College's balance on offense has allowed the team to overcome the loss of its top scorers Meghann Tilghman (Rockville), who suffered a knee injury late in the season, and Desha Nourn (John F. Kennedy), who is academically ineligible for the spring semester.
“We have pretty equal scoring and no one dominant offensive player,” longtime coach Tarlouh Gasque said. “Most of [the key players] were averaging around double digits during the season anyway. So teams have a problem figuring out who to guard.
“The girls just got together and decided we had to roll with what we got. We just have a lot of solid players. … I kind of sensed we had an opportunity [to get back to nationals] early on.”
Saturday's outcome was rarely in doubt as Montgomery College never trailed. Thalley, who played despite a pulled groin, made back-to-back 3-pointer to open the game to help her team to a quick 8-0 advantage.
“I wanted to get us going,” Thalley said. “We couldn't underestimate anybody.”
The Titans eventually closed within four, 20-16, on a field goal by Tynisha Walton with 8 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the first half. But after a timeout, the Raptors ended the half on a 10-4 run to seize complete control.
The Raptors forced several turnovers in the second half to limit their opponent to just 16 points in the frame and were able to execute their offense at will, scoring on wide-open 3-pointers and layups.
“In the first half, we were a little conservative to see what kind of team they were because we never played them before,” Gasque said. “This, is great.”
Montgomery College 72, Middle Georgia Technical College 36
Middle Ga. Tech 20 16 – 36
Montgomery College 30 42 - 72
Middle Ga. Tech (9-20): Sanquela Gresham 6, Kameelah Wynn 2, Asheleigh Burnett 2, Ashley West 14, Shanequa Hudson 6, Tynisha Walton 6
Montgomery College (23-6): Jameelah Thalley 15, Jartu Toweh 9, Kapria Redparth 10, Angelica Ceccone 17, Jocelyn Martin 13; Ashley Latter 6, Team/unknown 2.