Howard Community College kept its unblemished record at home in tact last Saturday and, in the process, made a little history as well.
Taking on the NJCAA Division II No. 4 ranked Beaver County Titans, the Dragons earned a 98-70 victory for the program’s first-ever win over a team ranked in the top five nationally. Howard improves to 14-0 at home and 19-6 overall.
“Our guys were fired up for the game and I could tell that from the time we brought them in for our morning shoot around,” Dragons’ coach Mike Smelkinson said. “They were just so ready to play and they knew that they had to bring their ‘A’ game. We’ve had this one circled on the schedule for awhile.”
Beaver County came in with a 23-1 record and was averaging 105 points per game offensively, but Howard CC set the tone early with some hot shooting from the outside. The Dragons hit three 3-pointers in the first five minutes and never slowed down on the way to hitting 13 shots from beyond the arc as a team on the day.
News and notes from around Howard County athletics, including Daeshawn Eaton signing with Howard CC men's basketball, Glenelg's Kathryn Hoffman recovering from torn ACL and Howard girls basketball's Anii Harris committing to Salem University
A pair of Oakland Mills High grads ended up setting the pace offensively for the Dragons, as Naquan Williams-Day (25 points) and Daeshawn Eaton (17) were the leading scorers. The two combined to hit six threes.
“I’m so thrilled to have the local guys not only playing for us, but playing such big roles. I think they are a major reason we’ve been having such big crowds lately at home,” Smelkinson said.
For Williams-Day, it was his fourth game of over 20 points this season — and first since early December. Eaton, meanwhile, is the team’s leading scorer this winter with an average of 13.8 points per game and has scored in double figures in 13 straight contests.
Against the Titans, Howard CC led by seven points, 40-33, at the half and then got a 3-pointer from Michael Gray (14 points) immediately out of the break to increase the lead to 10. From there, the Dragons led by double digits for the majority of the second half.
“A win against a team like Beaver County means we are able to beat anyone if we are all locked in and on the same page. It meant a lot playing at home; we play better in front of our home crowd and with the regional tournament being at our place we have more confidence and we will have the crowd on our side as well,” Eaton said.
There are three games left in the regular season, including a home contest on Feb. 28 against Cecil. Howard CC will then play host to the Region 20 DII Tournament from March 6-8 with a berth in the NJCAA DII National Tournament on the line.
“Right now, Beaver and Cecil are right ahead of us in the region standings, so as we approach the end of our season we are trying to fight for positioning. So that Cecil game, with them being ranked in the top 10 nationally, that is going to be very similar in importance to the Beaver game,” Smelkinson said. “The nice thing is that there truly seems to be a home court advantage for us right now. Our fans, and the energy that they bring, have made it a tough gym for opposing teams to play in.”
Williams-Day says it’s a confident group right now with the postseason approaching.
“We have felt we had the ability to get to the national tournament from day one working out with each other. We just need the whole team to be on our games together every night,” he said.
Williams returning to form for Bethune-Cookman women’s basketball
It’s a been long road back after having her standout freshman season last winter cut short by a knee injury, but Long Reach grad Kiana Williams has returned to be an integral piece this year for a Bethune-Cookman women’s basketball team (11-1 conference, 19-5 overall) that currently sits in first place in the MEAC Conference.
Williams, who averaged 12.1 points in 12 games as a freshman before going down against NCCU in January 2019, took a little while this season to get her legs under her. She spent the first 12 games coming off the bench, averaging under two points a contest.
But on Jan. 6 against Howard University, she made her return to the starting lineup and in the 11 games since has averaged 6.9 points a contest. Included along the way was a 22-point effort in a road win over Florida A&M that earned her MEAC Co-Player of the Week honors on Feb. 4.
As a team, Bethune-Cookman hasn’t lost this year with Williams as a starter.
“This was my first real major injury, so it was a hard process for me,” said Williams, who wasn’t able to return to practice until the past November. “Basically, the biggest thing was that I had to get the confidence back in myself. I had to get back to doing the things I know I’m capable of doing without being scared of doing things to my knee.
“Once I finally broke through, though, it was like everything suddenly got back to normal and I was good.”
Williams, the 2015-16 Howard County Player of the Year and a 1,000-point scorer during her high school days at Long Reach, said the toughest part of last season was not being able to help her teammates during their appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Bethune-Cookman, making its first tournament appearance in program history, lost to No. 1 seed Notre Dame by a score of 92-50 in the opening round.
Helping the Wildcats get back to the dance this season, and contributing on the court this time around, is at the top of Williams’ to-do list.
“To get a chance to be in that type of environment, on that that big stage, with my teammates would be a terrific opportunity. Last year was tough, but I believe that everything happens for a reason and I feel like it’s made me stronger,” Williams said. “We have a very different team than last year, a lot more depth, and I feel like if everyone plays their roles we can be really successful.”
Glenelg field hockey’s Silverstein makes U-16 U.S. National Team
Glenelg goalie Hala Silverstein was chosen as one of 34 field hockey players across the country for the under-16 U.S. Women’s National Team. Silverstein, a freshman, spent some time in goal for the Gladiators this past fall behind first-team All-County goalie Rachel Barker.
“She shared time with Rachel, who has been a three-year starter for us and took us to states. I was able to put Hala in at times, and we didn’t have a drop," said Glenelg coach Nikki Trunzo. "She’s just awesome as a freshman, and I’m happy we have her for the program.”
The U-16 USWNT has a training schedule over the next few months, which includes visits to California, North Carolina, Maryland and a tour in England. Trunzo said what helped prepare Silverstein for the the team was being a member of the WC Eagles, which is one of the top field hockey club programs in the nation.
“She’s getting all of her training there, and it’s some of the best training ever,” Trunzo said. “I have to credit Hala’s parents. They take her to camps and showcases and drive her to Pennsylvania for practices.”
Another player from Howard County, eighth-grader Natalie Machiran of Ellicott City, also made the team. The team’s training began Feb. 20 in Chula Vista, California.