Lewit, Cecil seek crown

Ending NJCAA title drought coach's goal

March 22, 2006|By CHRISTIAN EWELL | CHRISTIAN EWELL,SUN REPORTER

During his 11 seasons coaching Cecil County Community College's men's basketball team, Bill Lewit said he has been able to achieve most of his objectives.

Almost all of his players were able to go on to four-year colleges -- 23 of them to NCAA Division I programs, including Texas guard Craig Winder. On the court, the Seahawks have gone 86-14 over the past three seasons.

But winning the national junior college tournament is the one peak Cecil County has failed to conquer, a distinction that the 29-2 team hopes to eliminate as the National Junior College Athletic Association event begins today in Danville, Ill.

The Seahawks, ranked No. 1 in NJCAA's Division II, will face Triton (Mich.) College at 12:30 p.m.

"We've had the track record in those other areas, but we haven't won the national championship," Lewit said. "It would be a culmination of all the hard work they've done. To finish it up would be a tremendous event. We have four guys who have been in this program for three years."

The trip to the 12-team national tournament would be the fourth since 1999 for Cecil, which has assumed the traditional role of Division I Allegany as the premier junior college program in the state, going 17-0 in the Maryland JuCo Conference and winning the Maryland JuCo tournament for the second straight season.

Last year, the Seahawks entered the national tournament with a No. 3 ranking and a 31-1 record, only to run into top-ranked Brown Mackie (Kansas) JC in the first round, thanks to the tournament's rotating predetermined matchups between regional champions.

Cecil fell, 66-64, to Brown Mackie -- which eventually won the national title -- then lost to Lake Michigan College in a consolation game.

"Before we got there, everyone thought it was unjust, but we didn't cry," Lewit said. "We knew that we'd have to play them anyway."

Sophomore guard Glenn Nelson (Cardinal Gibbons) said he expects a different result from the Seahawks, mainly because of a greater ability to distribute the ball.

"This team is more unselfish," Nelson said. "Everyone wants to get the ball to someone else. It's just the way we play. It's just how much talent we have."

The talent is highlighted by Eddie Miller, the only team member currently signed to a Division I program (Fresno State), who leads the team in scoring with 23 points a game. Joel Green leads in rebounding with nine per game, and Kyle Camper leads in assists with nine per game.

Another factor that the team thinks has going for it is the benefit of facing better competition than last season.

Earlier in the season, Cecil visited Texas for the Odessa College Thanksgiving Shootout, which featured three matchups with NJCAA Division I programs, including No. 11 Midland (Texas). The Seahawks lost two of three games, but they believe that the games toughened them up for this week's tournament.

"I believe the trip to Texas better prepared us for more physical post players, definitely giving us a test that will prepare us for this week," Lewit said.

christian.ewell@baltsun.com

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