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Bus, not Hancock, slows down Southern Garrett

February 29, 2000|By BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

HANCOCK - Southern Garrett boys basketball coach Tom Bosley is hoping his Rams win enough playoff games to take the magic bus ride to the state tournament.

But a few hours before his team was to play Hancock in the Maryland Class 1A West quarterfinals, Bosley was hoping for any bus after an unexpected mechanical failure stranded the Rams only moments from home.

Fortunately, the Rams got on the road but the wheels came off for the Panthers as Southern advanced, 77-54.

But in a game that promised little before hand, it was Hancock (9-15) that refused to lose. Though they never led, the Panthers stayed in contention until the final minutes of the game.

The rollicking crowd, many standing for the entire game, loudly cheered each basket until the Rams (19-4) put together a nifty 14-0 run with five minutes remaining.

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From that point, Southern used the free throw ling to push the lead to 20 points.

Hancock's spirited play relied on opportunistic defense and crisp passing was a contradiction to the steady, disciplined play of the Rams. But Southern never really seemed comfortable until the game was well in hand.

"Hancock played a great game in the first half ... make no mistake about that," Bosley said. "We could not put them away."

In fact, the Panthers trailed by 10 three times in the second half, each time playing their way back into the game.

Hancock's Brandon Fling, Mike Hixon and Spencer Shives battled the Rams' Justin Liller and Jason Finch to a standoff under the boards in the first half. But a few adjustments by Bosley opened up the lane for Southern and allowed it to slowly start pulling away.

"There is no question we hurt them under there." Bosley said as the the Rams outrebounded Hancock, 51-19. "But it didn't happen right away."

Hancock employed an effective triangle-and-two defensive set on the Rams in an attempt to slow down top scorer Nathan Panther. Panther finished with 19 points, but Hancock's defense allowed Brian Panther to get open at the foul line where he dumped in 10 big points.

"We have some young kids playing there and they are still learning," Hancock coach Jeff Spielman said. "We played hard but Southern got in the bonus early in each half. It was a struggle just keeping them off the foul line."

The Rams hit 20 of 30 foul shots, half of them in the last two minutes of the game. But by that time, the Rams already held a 63-45 lead.

"I felt that we played hard enough to be there at the end - but we weren't," Spielman said. "But hey, Southern is a great basketball team - they have to be to play an entire game that hard and only make 11 fouls."

Liller led the Rams with 19 points while Panther had 15. Shives scored 13 for Hancock while Hixon had 10.

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