by Jim Fenton, The Enterprise
BROCKTON, Mass. ---- The Warriors (19-1) travel to New York Saturday afternoon to face defending Division 3 national champion and second-ranked Hostos Community College in the regular-season finale.
They have been ranked first and second in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division 3 women's basketball poll for nine weeks in a row.
Massasoit Community College moved into the top spot on Dec. 11 while Hostos Community College of New York City, which was No. 1 in the preseason poll after winning the national championship a year ago, has occupied the No. 2 position.
When the regular season comes to an end on Saturday afternoon, the Warriors (19-1) and the Caimans (23-5) will be meeting in New York in a showdown to get ready for the start of the postseason next week.
Massasoit will be making the trip without head coach Mark Leszczyk, who will miss his second game due to a health issue. It is not known when Leszczyk, who is in his first season with the Warriors, will return to the bench.
Kassy Ayanbeku, a 2006 Randolph High graduate and Leszczyk's assistant, guided the team to a 71-42 victory over the Community College of Rhode Island on Wednesday night.
"It will be a big test because they're the defending national champions and right now we're No. 1 and they're No. 2,″ said Ayanbeku, who also coached five seasons with Leszczyk at Roxbury Community College. "They have something to prove and we have something to prove.
"I look at it as a win-win situation. If we both go to nationals, we'd see them again, so this is good.″
Massasoit opened the season with 13 straight wins, and after a Jan. 7 loss at Cleveland State in Tennessee, the Warriors have put together a six-game winning streak.
They are outscoring opponents, 90.7-41.9, and are led by Ky'Jae Hargrove (24.2 points on 55 percent shooting with 4.9 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals), Daja Polk (21.9 points) and Nina Robinson (16.6 points, 12.8 rebounds).
Massasoit has scored at least 100 points in 10 of its 19 wins.
"The group of girls that we have, they all bring something different to the team,″ said Ayanbeku. "If someone is off one night, somebody else will end up pulling their weight. It's nice to have eight players that do something really, really good and can pick up somebody's off night.″
Ayanbeku scored 1,300 points and grabbed 900 rebounds at Montclair State after graduating from Randolph High. She was a graduate assistant at Canisius then started coaching at Roxbury with Leszczyk where they won a national title in 2016.
Now, Ayanbeku is filling in until Leszczyk returns, calling the shots for the top-ranked NJCAA Division 3 team.
"Because I've been coaching with him so long, I just try to think, OK, what would Mark do right now?″ she said of being in charge of the Warriors in his absence.
This was Massasoit's turn to host the Region 21 tournament, but because of an issue with the roof at the Asiaf Field House, the tourney has been switched to Bunker Hill Community College.
The Region 21 tourney will instead be held at Massasoit in 2020.
The top-seeded Warriors will play fourth-seeded Bunker Hill on March 2 at noon with the second-seeded University of Connecticut Avery Point meeting third-seeded Springfield Tech. The winners play for the region title on March 3 at noon.
The Region 21 champion will advance to the NJCAA tournament with seven other teams in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, March 14-16.