Late free throws lift HCC men past Frederick, 78-74

With the Howard Community College men’s basketball team clinging to a one-point lead, everyone knew where the ball was going. When James Peters (Oakland Mills) got it, he knew what to do.

The sophomore guard hit three free throws in the closing seconds to help the Dragons hold on for a 78-74 victory over visiting Frederick Community College on Wednesday night.

“I knew it was mine. So I just stepped up to the line and knocked them down,” Peters said. “I think about making the game-winner all the time when I’m in the gym shooting free throws and this was it.”

Kayode Ajenifuja and Tyrell Addison each scored a team-high 19 points, while Peters finished with 14 for HCC (6-2, 10-6), which maintained its third place standing in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference with the win over the Cougars.

“Frederick is a good team. They have some big-time players,” Dragons coach Mike Smelkinson said. “I thought that we did a good job at sticking to the game plan, which was to attack and get them into foul trouble.”

Smelkinson challenged his team at the beginning of the season to be more consistent. Last year’s team hovered around the .500 mark but he knew the talent this year was better than that.

“I asked the guys, ‘Are we going to be the Howard from last year who was up-and-down or are we going to establish ourselves as one of the top teams in the conference?’ ” Smelkinson explained.

The Dragons proved that they are a top team with its resolve late against Frederick.

Trailing 70-68 with just over two minutes remaining, Addison went to work in the post. He made three straight buckets inside and James Bartnik (Howard) hit a free throw to complete at 7-0 run for a 75-70 lead with 35.9 seconds remaining.

“Coach wanted us to attack and I didn’t feel like they could stay in front of me,” Addison said. “The player who was sticking me had four fouls, so I was either going to got a bucket or he was going to foul out.”

Frederick’s Tim Nelson got to the bucket quickly for a layup and on the ensuing inbounds play, Markee Mazyck stole a pass intended for Peters. He finished at the rim and got fouled. With a chance to tie the game, Mazyck missed the three throw and quickly fouled Peters who grabbed the board.

Peters made one of two from the foul line and after a Cougars miss, he calmly sank two more free throws with seven seconds remaining to preserve the win. Peters scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, including three 3-pointers.

The Dragons’ two losses in conference have come to the teams ahead of them, BCCC (10-0) and Hagerstown (8-1), but they have handled the rest of the league.

“We’re trying to climb up the ladder and establish a name for ourselves,” Addison said. “Coming into the season, nobody knew who Howard Community College was but they are going to know this year.”

HCC returns to the court on Saturday at 5 p.m. when they host CCBC-Dundalk.

Howard CC 78, Frederick CC 74

Frederick          34            40            --            74

Howard            34            44            --            78

FCC (6-4, 13-6): Mazyck 25, Nelson 16, Talley 15, Welty 12, Haley 2, Wiseman 2, Robinson 2.

HCC (6-2, 10-6): Ajenifuja 19, Addison 19, Peters 14, Bartnik 5, Harris 5, Ward 4, Johnson 4, Spain 3, Olugbile 1.

Half: 34-34.

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