BY CHAD DARE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — DANVILLE — Essex County College freshman teammates Christopher and Jordan Compas had plenty of reasons to miss practice last week as the Wolverines were preparing to play in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament.
Their mother, Lisa Compas, passed away on March 6.
But Christopher Compas, who recorded a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds in the Essex County 85-82 win over Dean College, said being on the basketball court is exactly what his mother wanted him to do.
“It was hard to mentally focus — it’s really hard,’’ said Christopher Compas of Montville, N.J. “All week I was distracted, but I know this is what she wanted me to do. She wanted me and my brother (Jordan) to keep going to practice even when she was sick.
“I’m just trying to make her proud this week.’’
Every mother would be proud with the way that Christopher and Jordan Compas have handled this situation, according to Essex County coach Corey Lowery.
“I’m almost 40 years old, and if I lost my mother, I would be heartbroken and it would be extremely hard to overcome that for me,’’ he said. “I just proud of them being here. As men, there are things that we have to deal with in our lives, we have to overcome and keep moving on. That’s first and foremost.
“We have dedicated this tournament to their mother, and I think it was fitting that we were going with him down the stretch.’’
Christopher Compas scored eight of his team-high 21 points in the final 6 minutes, 49 seconds, but no two points were more valuable for the Wolverines (26-5) than the two free throws he knocked down with 34.4 seconds left giving Essex County a 83-82 lead.
“I was actually in that position earlier this season against ASA (College) and I made the first and missed the second,’’ Christopher Compas admitted. “They came down, hit a basket and won the game (93-90 in overtime).
“So making those two free throws today was kind of redemption for me.’’
But was he really thinking about a game on Jan. 16?
“It was in the back of my mind,’’ he said. “I just wanted to focus and make sure I followed through.’’
In his four previous trips to the foul line in the final seven minutes, Christopher Compas was just 4-for-8 at the free-throw line, making one and missing one each time.
This time around, with the game on the line, he sank them both, as did teammate Dion Rogers to seal the victory with 1.6 seconds left.
“We made the free throws when we needed them, but we need to be more consistent,’’ said Lowery.
Troubles at the free-throw line was the theme for both teams as Dean College was just 25-of-40 in the contest and coach Rich Fazzi pointed out that his Bulldogs also missed the front end of a 1-and-1 three times.
“That’s basically going 25-of-43 when you add in those,’’ he said. “We shoot about 62 percent on the season and we’re one of the worst in the country.’’
But even with those missed shots at the charity stripe, the Bulldogs rallied from a 10-point deficit (78-68) with 3:30 left in the contest, to take an 82-81 lead on a basket by Jalen Myrie, who finished with 13 points. But Myrie couldn’t complete the three-point play and a turnover on its ensuing possession allowed Essex County to regain the lead for good.
“The biggest thing was the turnover with about 40 seconds left. You just can’t turn it over in that situation,’’ said Fazzi, who told his team at halftime they would need to score 50 points in the second half to beat Essex County. Dean College scored 51 in the final 20 minutes. “We never lost a game scoring more than 81 points this season. We scored 82 tonight, so that’s the first time.
“If we would have made a couple of free throws we would have won.’’
The first-round victory for Essex County is the first for the Wolverines in five games at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament.
“You just have to find a way to get that first one,’’ Lowery said. “I’m proud of what we have done for Essex, we want to continue to move on. It was better this year, because we had some experience of being here.’’
Joining Christopher Compas in double figures on Tuesday was Samson Akano with 20 and Rogers had 19, while Sean Mclean had five points and a game-high six assists for Essex County.
Keyon Armstrong came off the bench to lead Dean College with 21 points, while Jamal Rueben had 14 and Myrie finished with 13.
With the victory, Essex County (26-5) advances to Wednesday’s 8 p.m. quarterfinal game against Des Moines Area Community College and Dean College (21-4) is idle on Wednesday, but the next game for the Bulldogs is 9 a.m. consolation bracket game on Wednesday against the St. Louis Community College Archers.