HUTCH BOUND! Huge Second Half Lifts Monroe Mustangs Men’s Basketball over Hagerstown for East Distri
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y., March 7, 2020 – For the first time since 2017, the Monroe College Mustangs men's basketball team is heading back to Hutchinson, Kan., as the Mustangs defeated Hagerstown Community College by a score of 89-66 in the East District Championship game at the Monroe Athletic Complex on Saturday. The Mustangs earn the East District's automatic bid to the 2020 NJCAA Div. I Men's Basketball Championships with the win. As has been the trend for the Mustangs in the latter portion of the season, a big second half proved to be the difference in another Mustang win, the team's ninth in a row. The Mustangs trailed by as many as 10 points early in the game, but a 54-26 advantage in the second half helped the Mustangs roll to a 23-point victory at home. Saturday's contest got off to an inauspicious start for the Mustangs, as they quickly fell behind, 11-1. A 13-3 advantage for the Hawks soon became a 13-10 margin, as the Mustangs began to even out the momentum. Monroe got within one at 15-14, but was still unable to grab the lead for a while. The Mustangs finally broke through when they took a 26-25 edge with 5:56 left in the half, but the Hawks did not let that last long, as they responded with 11 straight points to take a 36-26 advantage. The Mustangs cut a nine-point deficit down to three in the final 90 seconds of the half, but Hagerstown's Rodney Black scored the final bucket of the frame to leave the Hawks up, 40-35, heading into halftime. The first few minutes of the second half remained in Hagerstown's favor, as the visitors held a six-point lead with 16:16 on the clock. A 47-41 lead quickly disappeared, as the Mustangs scored the next 12 points, all of which were scored by Zion Styles and Marcus Thompson, to grab a 53-47 lead. The Hawks kept it close, trailing by five with 8:18 to play, but the Mustangs turned on the heat from there, going on an 11-1 run to take a 71-56 advantage. A three by the Hawks did nothing to stop Monroe's momentum, as the Mustangs scored another seven in a row to take a commanding 19-point lead with just 3:42 on the clock. Despite going into clock-killing mode in the final two minutes, the Mustangs could not miss, scoring the final eight points of the game to cap off an impressive 23-point win. Styles had his best game of the season, registering a double-double with 26 points and 12 rebounds to help lead the Mustangs to victory. He scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half, and finished the day 14-of-17 from the free-throw line. Ja'Mani Eaton had a solid day with 17 points, five boards and a team-high four assists. Juan Felix Rodriguez totaled 16 points and eight rebounds. Thompson finished with eight points and a team-high 13 rebounds, pulling down 12 boards in the final 20 minutes. The Mustangs dominated the paint on Saturday, grabbing 58 rebounds as compared to just 32 for the Hawks. The Mustangs held a 52-32 scoring advantage in the paint, as well as a 24-9 edge in second-chance points. The Mustangs are officially heading to Hutch, earning one of 16 automatic bids into the national tournament. The field of 24 teams will be announced on Monday, March 9, in the NJCAA Division I Men's Basketball Selection Show, which will air live on NJCAA Championship TV at 1 p.m. The 2019-20 NJCAA eTeamSponsor Division I Men's Basketball Championship tournament will run from March 16-21 at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.