PRINCESS ANNE, Md. — After a dress rehearsal last week, the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks open the curtain on the 2017-18 regular season on Friday night against the University of Valley Forge.
Tip-off is set for 8:00pm EST at the William P. Hytche Athletic Center.
The Hawks picked up an exhibition win last week at home over the visiting Christopher Newport University Captains, 61-58. They needed some late-game heroics from Ahmad Frost, who hit four free throws in the final minute to seal the deal for the home side.
Friday marks the start of the regular season, and the Hawks will look to open the season with a win for the first time since the turn of the millennium. Records go back as far as the 2000-2001 season, and Eastern Shore hasn’t won the first game of the season from then until last season.
On Friday, the Hawks will look to change history.
Last season, the Hawks and Valley Forge squared off in January, with the Hawks coming away with a 90-65 win on their home court. They were led by Ryan Andino, who scored 23 points on 6-of-15 shooting from three point range. Forward Tyler Jones chipped in with 19 points of his own off the bench.
Heading into the 2017-18 season, the Hawks will be without several key contributors for a lengthy period of time. Both Dontae Caldwell and Isaac Taylor are expected to miss the entire season due to injury, and Andino will miss extended time with an ailment of his own.
That leaves Logan McIntosh as the only returning starter from last season’s team who will start again for the Hawks this year. McIntosh posted 8.8 points and a team-high 4.2 assists per game last season, and will be looked upon to lead the team early on as the newcomers get accustomed to playing at the Division I level.
With the injuries and departures from last season, freshman LeAndre Thomas will see big minutes in the post from the outset of the season. He went for eight points and eight rebounds against the Captains in exhibition play.
Another player who will play a significant role for head coach Bobby Collins this season is guard Ahmad Frost. Playing his first game since January of 2016, Frost scored a team-high 12 points in the Hawks’ exhibition win. With injuries in the back court, Frost will be a big factor for the Hawks all season long.
Last season, Valley Forge bounced back from their first non-winning season in over a decade with a 19-10 showing in 2016-17. They were ranked 4th in the NCCAA Division II rankings, and they have finished in the top two in the East Region 11 straight years.
Senior guard Alex Sanchez led the team in scoring last season, and with the next six scorers below him all gone from Valley Forge, he will need to carry the team in 2017-18. Sanchez posted 18.2 points and 1.7 assists per game.
In total, the Hawks have seven newcomers on their 2017-18 roster, with most of them expected to see considerable playing time this season. Friday marks one of three home non-conference games for the Hawks this season.
Following Friday’s tilt, the Hawks go on the road for six games before returning to the Hytche Athletic Center on December 2nd.
Be sure to follow College Court Report for post-game notes and reactions from Friday’s game.
– T. Bennett