Picking up its defensive pressure in the second half Monday, Howard Community College erased a three-point halftime deficit and cruised to a 77-65 victory over Montgomery College Takoma Park.

After allowing 40 points in the first half, the Dragons responded by allowing the visiting Falcons to score just 25 after the break.The effort on defense helped spark the offense as well, leading to the double-digit victory that improved HCC to 5-4 in conference play and 8-8 overall.

"I challenged them at halftime to step it up on the defensive end of the floor and they really responded," coach Mike Smelkinson said. "I give my guys a lot of credit in taking pride in their defense the second half of the game."

Jeff James led the Dragons on the night with 17 points, but there were plenty of other strong contributors. Ben Vester (Wilde Lake) had one of his best games of the year with 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Dolapo Olugbile (Reservoir), Nico Jones (River Hill) and Andrew Moore (Hammod) all chipped in with six or more points.


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The story, though, was the team's turnaround after heading into intermission down 40-37.

In the first five minutes of the second half, HCC used its defensive pressure to outscore MC Takoma Park by 13 and take its first double-digit lead. The Dragons then held that advantage the entire rest of the way.

"Offensively, we rebounded well and we thoroughly executed our plays," Olugbile said. "We were able to create good shots."

The win served as a nice bounce-back effort after HCC had suffered a 64-57 loss to Baltimore City Community College on Saturday. The Dragons will return to action on Wednesday at home against local-rival Prince George's CC at 7:30 p.m., trying to win back-to-back games for the first time in January.

"We are still searching for consistency," Smelkinson said. "Hopefully we can build on this and keep heading in the right direction."