By Jack Creegan and Daniel Fama
LARGO, MD – Maryland Juco Conference Men's Basketball Tournament top seed Harford advanced to tomorrow's championship game tonight after defeating the No. 5 Montgomery Raptors 74-70 in a semifinal match-up at Prince George's Community College.
The Fighting Owls controlled the first half with productive 15-32 shooting (47%), while the Raptors hit just 10-38 (26).
With 7:20 remaining in the first half, the Fighting Owls built a 16-point lead in what looked to be the beginning of the end for the Raptors.
However, some timely three-pointers hit by Raptor's Afanna Offor and Collin Turner helped Montgomery stay within striking distance.
Some of Harford's largest contributions came from their bench which scored 25-points in the half.
Malik Jones led the way with 13-points on 5-9 shooting prior to the break, connecting on 3-5 three-pointers in the process.
Despite a half that was statistically dominated by the Fighting Owls, the Raptors went into break only trailing 36-27.
Harford continued to nurse a healthy 10-point lead well into the second half.
With 13:50 remaining, Jones shook a defender with a crossover and hit a big step-back three.
Shortly after, Martin Kelly Jr. scored a layup through some contact to earn an and one situation. A visibly frustrated Montgomery coach was a technical foul, and Kelly was able to turn a two-point basket into an unconventional four point play.
Turner started to take over the game for the Raptors and almost single-handedly cut the lead to four with 10:06 remaining.
The lead hovered around four until Kelly Jr. slammed home an emphatic dunk that put the Fighting Owls up six.
Teammate DeZ Brown followed up shortly after with a layup to push the lead to eight and send the gym into a frenzy.
Turner and the Raptors refused to go away and put pressure on Harford as the game neared its conclusion.
Turner had a chance to cut the lead to three on a fast break, but his dunk attempt was blocked by Brown and Malik Jones turned it into two points on the other end to push the lead to seven.
The Fighting Owls held on for the four-point victory and will play Cecil in the championship tomorrow at 3 p.m.
Turner led all scorers with 30 points, 25 of which came in the second half.
Ramel Davidson chipped in with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
For the Fighting Owls, Jones led the way – off the bench – scoring 24.
Kelly Jr. scored 17 and made multiple key defensive stops.
*Andrew Feminella and Philip McCown contributed to this article.
**Photo credit Mark Winkel, Harford Athletics.