NORTH EAST — A decision was made when the Cecil College men’s basketball team dropped a seventh-straight game on Dec. 12 at Baltimore City Community College.
The Seahawks would play defense differently. They had to.
Cecil allowed more than 90 points four times during that seven-game skid. There were also losses in which they gave up 86 and 89 points. Coach Ed Durham decided his team would run a constant full-court press.
In the nearly two month since, the Seahawks have played relentless defense. Cecil has won 13 of its last 14 games while allowing 66.5 points per game – with two games during that stretch going to overtime.
The Seahawks defeated visiting CCBC Catonsville, 85-56, Wednesday night for a ninth-straight win.
“We lost to Baltimore City back in December and that’s where it started. We just decided that that’s how we’re going to play – we’re going to pick up full-court,” Durham said. “We came back and the only loss we have since is to Dundalk at the buzzer. But that’s been the plan, we just decided we’re going to attack you at both ends of the floor.”
Cecil boasts a nine-game win streak that has put the Seahawks back into conference tournament contention after a difficult start to the season. In its last six games, Cecil has allowed an average of only 55.2 points per contest.
“We’re picking up everybody full court. We don’t want anybody to score on us and we don’t want anybody to outwork us. Now, it hurts for you to get scored on,” sophomore forward Shylier Ringgold said. “We all just want it. We want to make it to the national tournament and show the nation that the way our season started – the seven-game losing streak to now – we’ve got it figured out now.”
Ringgold said the team played as individuals during the early-season struggles. Now, the Seahawks embody complete team efforts.
On Wednesday, three players scored in double figures – Ringgold and sophomore guard Cornell Corbin leading the way with 14 points apiece and sophomore forward Darrell Jenkins right behind with 13.
“It’s kind of been that way all year,” Durham said. “We’re playing a lot of guys. Jake Falko and Corey Corbin are our leading scorers with 12.2. We’ve got a bunch of other guys between seven and nine points.”
Playing time is as balanced as the scoring. Corbin leads the Seahawks at just under 25 minutes per game. Eight players average over 15 minutes per contest and 13 players are averaging double-digit minutes.
The constant wave of fresh legs has allowed Cecil to play its relentless full-court defense for entire games.
“We always tell our guys, it’s not who starts, it’s who finishes and how we finish,” Durham said. “There’s been some stretches where we’ve had to play Corey or somebody 35-38 minutes, but of late with the streak that we’ve had here, it’s been pretty balanced. For us, what we like to say, is that it’s hard to scout us because it’s not like you can say ‘Ok, we need to focus on this guy or that guy.’ There’s a lot of options.”
Wootson surprised with jersey retirement
Dwayne ‘DJ’ Wootson knew he was going to be recognized at halftime. Cecil College men’s basketball coach Ed Durham had reached out to invite the program’s all-time leading scorer back for a game during the season that marked 20 years since he left the school.
But Wootson was surprised with his framed No. 30 jersey that will now hang the Seahawks’ home court.
“It feels tremendous. What an honor, I wasn’t expecting it. Coach Durham didn’t tell me that was coming. That was a surprise,” Wootson said. “He said ‘We’ll do a little something for you at halftime.’ I said ‘Well, you ought to.’ But I wasn’t expecting him to put my jersey up framed like that, but it feels good to be respected in a place that I gave so much to and that gave so much to me.”
Wootson still holds the program record with 1,519 points – averaging just under 25 per game between 1996-99. He helped a Cecil program that had gone winless in the 1995-96 season to 16 wins his freshman year.
“This is where it started for me. I used to talk with some other guys that I went to school with here that this was a place that turned us boys into men,” Wootson said. “I learned so much here. These were really my formative adult years, here at Cecil. I just remember playing basketball was all I wanted to do – stay in the gym and make it work.”
Wootson became the program’s first player to go on to play Division I basketball. He attended Georgia State in Atlanta where he played for former Maryland Hall of Fame coach Lefty Driessell. Wootson helped the Panthers reach the NCAA Tournament in 2001 and upset Wisconsin in the first round.
“I got to go on, play Division basketball, play in the NCAA Tournament and leave here the all-time leading scorer,” he said. “I’m still surprised with the amount of talent that has funneled through here over the years that no one has broken that.”
Wootson grew up in Wilmington, Del. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University after leaving Georgia State. He has remained in Nashville where Wootson owns a successful real estate development company and was named to Nashville Business Journal’s 40 under 40 in 2018.
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig