JOHNSTOWN — Coming into the season, it had been 15 years since either the Fulton-Montgomery Community College men’s or women’s basketball team had won a regional title.
The men last claimed the crown in 2006-07, while the women last won a regional title in 2003-04.
After last weekend, the dry spell is over for both programs.
For the first time in school history, the men’s and women’s teams earned regional titles in the same season, sweeping the Region 3 titles last Sunday.
“Winning the region means everything to our athletic program. Being one of the smaller institutions it’s an uphill battle from the start so it is monumental to our athletic program,” FMCC athletic director and women’s basketball coach Kevin Jones said. “For each basketball program, it just shows the work that was put in by the players and staff. Just great for the campus and community.”
The Raiders are the first program to sweep regionals since Mohawk Valley Community College did it in 2015-16.
“I’m not sure how many times its happened where the guys’ and girls’ team at the same school have won regionals in the same year,” said FMCC men’s basketball coach E.J. Gallup, who is in his second season. “I hope that its gives all of our students, faculty and staff at FMCC something to be proud of. I see every day the work that is put in by my kids and also with Kevin and his girls we are a tight-knit family, so it is nice to see that hard work rewarded.”
“Having both teams win the region is huge for the program mainly because it’s such a rare feat within the region,” Jones said. “Again, it goes back to what work everyone has put in to achieve their goal.”
The women’s team has posted a 21-0 overall record this season on its way to the Mountain Valley Conference and Region 3 titles.
It’s the first time in Jones’ 24 seasons as coach that the Raiders have gone through regionals unbeaten.
As it did during the regular season, FMCC rolled over its opposition in regional play, winning by an average of 29 points. All three games took place on the Raiders’ home floor as they topped Tompkins Cortland in the quarterfinals 82-56 on Feb. 23, North Country in Saturday’s semifinals 78-56 and defending champion Onondaga in the title game on Sunday, 84-45.
Kiya Marquez was named the tournament’s most valuable player, while Sarah Emanuel-Norwood was named to the all-tournament team. Marquez averaged 23.3 points per game in the three tournament games, including a 35-point effort in the championship game. Emanuel-Norwood averaged 11.7 points per games for the Raiders in the three tournament contests.
The men’s road to the Region 3 title began with an 87-68 win over North Country at home on Feb. 22 before knocking off defending champion Genesee in the semifinals at Mohawk Valley Community College last Saturday by a 105-98 margin. In the title game last Sunday, the Raiders rallied for an 89-82 victory over host Mohawk Valley.
With the win, FMCC improved to 12-1 on the road this season. The Raiders have also won five of their last six games.
Fulton-Montgomery’s De’vante Mateo was named the tournament’s MVP, while Nahjhime Kirton was named to the all-tournament team. Mateo averaged 20.3 points per game in the tournament for FMCC (20-6 overall), while Kirton averaged 21 points in the three tournament wins.
“Winning regionals means a lot to everyone. When I was hired at FMCC, I hoped that we could put together a team that would be in the hunt for conference and regional titles every year,” Gallup said. “There are very good basketball teams and coaches in our conference and region, so this isn’t something we are taking for granted. It means a lot to be able to hang a 2023 banner in our gym.”
Gallup also was named the Mountain Valley Conference and Region 3 Coach of the Year. Mateo, Kirton and Kennyh Hardeman all were named second-team all-conference, while Hardeman was named second-team all-region. Mateo and Kirton both were named third-team all-region.
Hardeman averaged 18.2 points per game this season for FMCC, while Mateo (16.3 ppg) and Kirton (19.8) also averaged in double figures. Hardeman also averages 11.3 rebounds per game, while Kirton has pulled down an average of 10.2 rebounds per game.
Rounding out the men’s roster are Nick Butler, Jaisan Parker, Jelani Moreno, Jevonny Brown, Aiden Monroe and Ian Holland.
“We won regionals, we have three guys named to different all-conference and all region all-star teams. It was honestly very humbling for me to be named conference and regional Coach of the year by my peers, but this is a total team effort,” Gallup said. “None of this happens without all nine of my guys on the roster, my AD, Kevin Jones, who also helps our team as an assistant, T.J. Czeski, Scott Parillo, Todd Wheaton, John Sumpter and Kevin Kucel as assistants who have all helped this team out tremendously throughout the season. We aren’t done making memories just yet but its been a season that will forever be in the FMCC record books.”
It’s a season that has also included an unexpected tragedy as Wheaton passed away in January as the result of a snowmobile accident.
“Our goal coming into this season was to build upon what we started last season. We kind of adopted the saying one game at a time, one day at a time.’ Everyone bought into that saying and it led us to a regional title,” Gallup said.
Like the men’s team, the FMCC women’s squad was well-represented on the all-conference and all-region teams.
Marquez and Andie Gannon were named first-team all-region, while Makenzie Smith was named third-team all-region. Gannon and Marquez also were named first-team all-conference, while Smith and Abby Lombardoni were named to the second team.
Marquez leads FMCC with an average of 19.1 points per game this season, while Lombardoni (17.8), Gannon (16.9) and Smith (16.4) also average double figures.
Mary Ellen Querrie, Alimah Goodwin and Shanna Bliss round out the women’s roster.
The women’s team ended the season second in the final National Junior College Athletic Association Division III poll, while the men were ranked sixth.
Both teams now await the announcement of the NJCAA Division III Tournament brackets, which is scheduled for Wednesday.
“Both of our programs at this point are going to try and win a title. We will see strong teams that we need to prepare for with practice and scouting,” Jones said. “Everything will be a big challenge and I think both teams are up to it.”
The men’s tournament will take place at Herkimer County Community College, while the women’s tourney is set to take place in Rochester, Minn. Both tournaments will take place March 15-18.
“We break the season up into different sections, preseason, regular season and then regionals. Now that we have won regionals and are moving on to nationals its a little bit of unchartered waters but in a great way,” Gallup said. “We have already begun our preparation as a team so that we will be ready to keep this momentum going on March 15th in Herkimer.”
The 17-day layoff between games is something Jones said he will use to his advantage.
“The layoff shouldn’t be an issue. The good thing is this happens between semesters so we are almost used to it,” he said. “This time can be used to heal some players and put in some new stuff for the tournament. We will keep our focus and conditioning on point and be ready.”
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: College Sports, Sports