Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Another Local Talent Chooses Mount

DC Guard Byron Ashe chose Mount St. Mary's on Sunday night, becoming the fourth area product to do so recently. The Mount has grabbed three players from the DC Area in recent weeks, while Khalid Nwandu from Northeastern York PA, signed in the fall.

Ashe is a 6-1 guard who really scores the basketball. He played for Friendship Collegiate Academy the last three years and should fit very nicely into a Mount program that puts a pretty big emphasis on perimeter play. The Mount went to a four guard offense late this season, that move propelled them to an exciting finish. The Mount finished the season with nine straight wins before falling to LIU in the NEC Championship Game.

But since the season has ended the Mount has seen several players ask for and be granted their release and scholarships became available. It was reported last week that Kelvin Parker and Josh Castellanos have left the program. Gonzaga's Charles Glover and Marshall transfer guard Chris Martin quickly filled those scholarships. With the addition of Ashe it appears that the Mount has at least one more player departing, and likely two as they continue to bring talent into the program.

Ashe has great acceleration and can score in a variety of fashions. The guard is crafty and creates shots for himself and others. Ashe scored a season-high 33 versus National Christian getting to the foul line 20 times that night, converting on 90% of the attempts. Per Allmetsports.com the All-Capital Beltway first teamer averaged 19.1 points per game during his senior season.

With the addition of the 4 newcomers next fall (Martin will need to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer rules), the Mount's roster will likely be made up of players from DC, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The lone exception will be NEC Newcomer of the Year Shivaughn Wiggins. So it has become obvious from Jamion Christian and his staff's first year and a half recruiting that they want the recruiting base to be from the local areas.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

DC Guard transferring to Mount

Chris Martin from Upper Marlboro Maryland, who spent the last two seasons at Marshall is transferring to the Mount according to sources familiar with the situation.

Martin, a 6-0 guard, played at famed St. Patrick (NJ) Prep before going to Marshall. He is a great shooter who loves to score the ball. Due to NCAA transfer rules he will be required to sit out one season but will be eligible starting in the 2014 season.

Averaged 13.5 points for the St. Patrick team that was ranked No.1 in the country for much of the season, before finishing at #3.

He just completed his sophomore season at Marshall where he averaged just over 3 points a game, while making 15 three-pointers. He looks to be the type of guard who will thrive in Jamion Christian's offense.

His father Bill Martin played on Georgetown teams that made three NCAA title game appearances in the early 80's. The Hoyas won the 1984 crown.

Welcome aboard Chris.We're excited to get to know you.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sports Can Be Cruel

Long Island won its third straight NEC title with a 91-70 win over the Mount in Brooklyn. The Mount built an early 8-point lead but struggled mightily against the Blackbird zone defense.

CJ Garner continued his masterful play for LIU with a 31-point effort.

The loss snapped a nine game Mount winning streak as the Mounties attempted to be the first NEC team to win an NEC tournament playing all three games on the road.

Unfortunately, the run was stopped one win short of an NCAA tournament berth.

I'm a mix of emotions right now, extremely proud of the season that this group gave us, disappointed that the performance wasn't better tonight, to just flat out sad that there is no game to be thinking about tomorrow.

This Mount team is going to be remembered for awhile. Unfortunately endings don't write themselves.

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It was LIU's Night

Thanks for the run. You made March matter again.

Brightness on the horizon.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Who is the Hero?

If there's been one constant in the Mount's three NCAA berth sealing wins, it has been the hero factor from the unlikely source.

Silas Cheung went off when the Mount prevented Rider from earning its third straight NEC title and sent Jim Phelan to the Big Dance for the first time.

And then Eric Bethel rained threes on Central Connecticut on Staten Island giving Phelan his 800th win and another tourney berth. Yes that Bethel, his brother Tony is now an assistant at the Mount.

Finally, Freshman Jean Cajou, who really was special the whole NEC Tournament led the Mount to victory in Connecticut over Sacred Heart.

So if the form holds, who becomes the hero?

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Saturday, March 09, 2013

Back to the Championship Game

Ok, I've calmed down enough where I think I can bang out a little bit about the Mount's 69-60 win over Robert Morris in the NEC Semifinal today at a place they call The Chuck, like Ground Chuck I suppose. See I was afraid if I wrote this three hours ago, I'd say nasty things like (Did you hear the Mount fans chanting NIT as the game wore down) or remind folks had bad All-NEC Velton Jones (2-for-17 and four turnovers) was today. And that I'd be too much the fan - and not enough the clear headed enthusiast.

Okay, I got my jabs in. Robert Morris will always be Enemy #1. That was cemented with the great tourney games the teams played last decade. But the thing is, Bobby Mo forgot about it. While the Mount was busy wallowing through the Robert Burke years, RMU was playing its new biggest rival, Long Island and losing in two straight NEC championship games.

Still Robert Morris deserved all the pregame accolades. This was a team that had won 20+ games against a tough non-conference schedule and been the class (most consistent) of the NEC regular season for the duration. No longer were the Colonials this grind it out defensive team that just tried to frustrate you to death to beat you. That left with Mike Rice and when Andrew Toole was able to bring in some better talent. Now Robert Morris spread the floor, launched threes and went hard to the glass with a combination of slashers, shooters and rotating big men that added up to a deserved conference champion.

Robert Morris - as they were from that perspective - deserved to be a favorite - and 8.5 was probably a fair number.

But even so, going in from my perspective it was hard to see the Mount as an underdog. Hard to see them as a team that couldn't beat anyone put before them now. Because it wasn't like the most recent 8 games, all wins, that preceded the Mount entering the Chuck for an afternoon semifinal, were against the Sisters of the Poor. In fact, Robert Morris probably should have handed the Mount thank you cards as they entered. Because it was this Mount team that on two straight Thursday nights knocked off the league leaders. Bryant first, then Long Island next, essentially allowing Robert Morris to win the conference and ironically wrap up the guaranteed NIT bid that they sent them to this afternoon.

No the Mount didn't really deserve that. They deserved a lot more. And on Saturday they showed why they deserved it.

In the postseason, it is so often that the best TEAMS win. And that's no knock on the Colonials. It's just what we've known in or around the Mount for the last several months is that this team is truly a team.

That even though Rashad Whack is the leading scorer he might not be that on every night. And on night's when he isn't the Mount still has a fighting chance.

And Raven Barber has been so key down the stretch. Of course, he's done it while sharing time inside with three others who all bring something different and needed to the package.

And Sam Prescott scored 44 one night. And hasn't taken a forced selfish shot in the games that have followed.

Shivaughn Wiggins has added so much to the team with his on the ball defense. And then at the other end he turned into the NEC Rookie of the Year after winning the weekly award 5 times. Some nights he scores, some nights he passes, and at 5 foot 10 inches he rebounds. And his coach will tell you, and it's hard to disagree, that his defense means the most.

And then there was last year's leading scorer, Julian Norfleet. The lefty from the Tidewater Area has yielded all season to others. Made concessions within his statline for the better of the team. So when starting point guard Josh Castellanos went down with an ankle injury, who was better to step in than Norfleet. He had made all sorts of sacrifices all season - and going to the head of the offense would be another. As this string started, it became apparent that Norfleet could handle the role and more so. He stuffed the stat sheets, found open teammates and all of a sudden that lefty stroke came back.

Castellanos came back from the ankle injury after missing several games and never regained the starting job he had held for the past two and a half years. And as the season went on, his minutes became less and less. But the junior from the Orlando never sulked, never became the problem that lesser people would have. Instead, he cheered, pushed and encouraged his teammates and when Norfleet went down with of all things an ankle injury on Saturday afternoon, Castellanos came off the bench to solidify the offense and help preserve the win.

There didn't seem to be a Mountaineer among them who noticed the difference. Because it became apparent to them a long time ago, back in the preseason workouts, back on the fall camping trip, back on the Frederick House Build project that if these guys wanted to accomplish something, they had to accomplish it together. And when the bad things happen as they always do, you find a way to adjust and make the situation good. And there's nobody out there to help you but your teammates.

That's the Mountaineer team we've been watching this whole year.

It's that team that couldn't be considered an underdog on Saturday. It's that team that played like a favorite.

And it's that team we'll be watching on Tuesday night in the NEC Championship Game.

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Thanks @FlavaFlem09.  Absolute great great win by the Mount this afternoon. I'll have some real thoughts when my heart resumes a normal rhythm.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

So Much to be said

Several observations in the aftermath of the big victory over Bryant in the NEC Tournament on Wednesday night.

  • The season has truly been fun. It's been a joy to watch this team fight through adversity, grow and keep getting better. But it's just great to actually play games that matter. Games that make you get that knot in your stomach when the clock hits 10 minutes tonight.
  • The five points at the end of the first half for Bryant were the only time I was really worried all night. I don't think the Mount played its best, but even while trailing most of the first half, I thought the win would come. But those last five points are the first half were a bit troubling.
  • Shivaughn Wiggins continues to play within himself and find ways to score. His insertion into the lineup and him driving to the basket has made others play that way as well.
  • Big Kudos to Raven Barber tonight. Haven't been many games this year where he's had as big of night as he had tonight. 14 points on 8-of-8 free throw shooting. Just a fabulous night.
  • The Mount made 26-of-27 free throws tonight. All of a sudden this team, which is not a good foul shooting team has 2 of the best free throw nights in Mount history.
  • Rashad Whack's shot selection can be questioned now and again. But get his shoulders square and he knocks down some big shots. A couple huge ones tonight.
  • Sam Prescott is averaging 25 per game in his last two versus Bryant.
  • It's hard watching games where the announcers are employed by the opposition. However, in the end I thought the Bryant duo gave the Mount credit for the win.
  • Survive and advance in March is all you can ask for. It wasn't pretty tonight. But this team showed it believes in itself and won a tough game in a hostile environment. 
  • Saturday will be fun. Enjoy it Mount fans.

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