UTICA, NY– Cheyenne Clark, one of the mainstays in the Mohawk Valley lineup this season, wasn’t there for the Hawks’ NJCAA third place game against Anoka-Ramsey on Saturday.
For freshman Kadijah Jones, head coach Jason Carpenter, and the rest of the Hawks, it didn’t seem to matter.
“It’s big,” Jones said, “but we adjusted. We will always adjust to things like that.”
“As much as [Clark] has done for us,” Carpenter said, “Someone would step up when we need them to.”
On Saturday night, it was two freshmen who stepped up for Mohawk Valley. Jones was a presence under the basket all night for the Hawks, racking up 26 points. Meanwhile, classmate Bria Wilson was shooting the lights out, getting all but four of her 22 points from beyond the three-point line. That was enough for the Hawks to rack up yet another third-place plaque, knocking off the Golden Rams, 77-65. For Carpenter, despite not making the national championship yet again, it was another exceptional season for his Hawks, culminating with a win against a perennial junior college powerhouse in women’s basketball.
“I joked that I have to be the best third-place coach in the country,” Carpenter said. “Someday we’d like to be cutting down the nets. Anoka-Ramsey’s a very good basketball team…this was the right way to end it.”
The Golden Rams would not make it easy for Mohawk Valley from the opening tip, as the two teams traded baskets for the first couple of minutes and maintaining a tie at five. However, Anoka-Ramsey would take over for a little while, going on a 5-0 run to pull their lead to just that margin.
Despite all that, the Hawks would go on a little run of their own, one of 4-0 to pull the Rams back to within one. Led by key blocks and rebounds by Jones, the Hawks were able to continue to attack the basket and maintain an 11-10 lead at the first quarter break. Jones would finish up with five blocks (the only other Mohawk Valley player to record any was freshman Tiffany Jackson, with three) and 11 total rebounds (which put her even with the entire Anoka-Ramsey team) to lead the Hawks.
However, it was not all good news for Mohawk Valley, as freshman Dionna Rogers would go down with an ankle injury with just a minute left in the game. She would not return, but the bench would step up for her in the interim, helping the Hawks finish the quarter with an 11-10 advantage.
The second quarter would start much like the first did, with the two teams trading baskets back and forth. Jones continued to be a force for the Hawks under the basket, but stepping up for the Golden Rams was Alyssa Correll, who knocked down three big three-point shots to keep Anoka-Ramsey close. As a matter of fact, neither team could produce a lead bigger than five points for most of the second quarter.
Even Jones was feeling the pressure, as she would go to the bench early in the period for a supposed injury to her knee. However, she would return in a big way, as she led all scorers in the quarter with ten points. Led by Jones, the Hawks were able to hold the Golden Rams to just 17 points for the rest of the half, as they would extend their lead to seven with just a minute left. However, a big three by Rashonna Thomas would pull the Golden Rams back slightly, as they would go into the locker room with a 31-27 deficit.
For Anoka-Ramsey head coach Dave DeWitt, the Rams just couldn’t get over the Hawks’ shooting.
“Mohawk Valley shot a lot better than they did in the last two games,” DeWitt said. “Credit to them, they made some adjustments we just couldn’t get over.”
It didn’t get any better for the Golden Rams in the third quarter. However, a bright spot for Anoka-Ramsey came early on, as timely turnovers helped the Golden Rams cut the lead to three early on as the two teams continued to trade baskets. Unfortunately, the Hawks, this time with help from bench player Tiffany Jackson’s seven points, were able to extend the lead to eight.
The Mohawk Valley lead would extend to nine before a 5-0 run by Anoka-Ramsey would cut the lead back down to four late in the third. However, a buzzer-beater three-pointer by Bria Wilson would put the lead back to seven just as the third quarter ended. At the third quarter break, the Hawks found themselves up 52-45.
“We had good possession of the ball,” DeWitt said, “We just couldn’t get over the hump
The Golden Rams would not make it an easy win for the Hawks in the fourth quarter, however, as a 5-0 run would cut the lead to two at the start of the quarter. However, Bria Wilson came alive for Mohawk Valley late, knocking down three big three-pointers to help the Hawks pull away.
“This was the right time…” Carpenter said. “[Wilson and Jones] are very good shooters.”
From there, the Hawks continued to wear down the Rams, while all the time pulling further and further away. Despite some big long-distance shots by Thomas and Laya Sath late, the Golden Rams just couldn’t keep up with the faster Hawks. When it was all said and done, the buzzer sounded with Mohawk Valley celebrating yet another third-place finish in the national championships.
“We got beat by a quicker, more athletic team tonight,” DeWitt said. “What this tournament has showed me is that we have to step up our athleticism. We don’t see this kind of team game in, game out. I’m proud of my kids, though…they were great all year.”
“We did very good tonight,” Jones said. “Play hard, play smart, play together, that’s our motto. Our main focus is defense. The offense will come but it’s the defense that will win games.” That was certainly true for the Hawks on Saturday, as they forced 10 Anoka-Ramsey turnovers.
Unfortunately, the win also means that Carpenter will have to say goodbye to three second-year players, including Clark, who was a superstar for Mohawk Valley in her two years with the team. However, Carpenter was proud of what his Hawks accomplished.
“To do what we did at the two year level speaks volumes about all of them,” Carpenter said. “I don’t know if there’s enough words to describe my gratitude.”
“Cheyenne was the core of the leaders,” Jones, who is expected to be a leader for the Hawks next year, said. “Now I have to step up.”
Despite Clark’s departure from Mohawk Valley in May, with Jones leading the charge next season, the Hawks seem to be in good hands.
Mohawk Valley CC Hawks 77, Anoka-Ramsey Golden Rams 65
Hawks 11 20 18 28 77
Golden Rams 10 17 16 22 65
Mohawk Valley CC Hawks (77)
Alaundra McDaniel 1 2-2 4, Kadijah Jones 13 0-0 26, Gianna Locker 2 2-2 8, Bria Wilson 7 2-2 22, Chyna Wilson 3 0-0 6, Tiffany Jackson 5 1-1 11. Total: 31 7-7 77.
Anoka-Ramsey Golden Rams (66)
Lateah Turman 7 3-4 17, Rashonna Thomas 6 0-0 16, Alyssa Correll 3 2-2 11, Laya Sath 1 0-0 3, Dariel Lipscomb 7 0-2 14, Maegan McKernon 2 0-0 4. Total: 26 5-8 65.
Three-point field goals: Mohawk Valley 8 (Wilson 6, Locker 2), Anoka-Ramsey 8 (Thomas 4, Correll 3, Sath).
Total Rebounds: Mohawk Valley 38, Anoka-Ramsey 15.
Total Assists: Mohawk Valley 11, Anoka-Ramsey 1.
Total Turnovers: Anoka-Ramsey 10, Mohawk Valley 8.
Halftime: Mohawk Valley 31, Anoka-Ramsey 27.