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Two old rivals in a new setting

OPINION -

March 01, 2001

OPINION - Two old rivals in a new setting



So this is what the old Tri-State League used to be? Wow.

Wednesday night's boys Class 3A West semifinal between Thomas Johnson and North Hagerstown brought out the best in two conference champions, just like any good playoff game should. But the Patriots' 66-61 win left everybody gushing over the guys in the other uniforms - and with good reason.

TJ's Jermaine Thomas scored the quietest 27 points in the history of basketball. North's Scott Rice was momentarily touched by a higher power from 3-point range. No matter what the Hubs tried, TJ refused to make a mistake down the stretch. North's transition game surprised even TJ coach Tom Dickman.

Afterward, Dickman could smile. He joked about the last time he had been to Hagerstown: "Senility must be setting in. I forget."

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Now, Dickman and TJ will pretty much take on all comers - their record in the Slam Dunk to the Beach and the St. James Invitational Tournament will attest to that - so this and other old battles have fallen to the wayside, thanks to the Central Maryland Conference and the Monocacy Valley Athletic League.

For one night, though, an old fire was rekindled, if not for the same old reasons.

"A lot of our kids probably don't even know we used to play (TJ)," North coach Tim McNamee said. "But they've been successful, and you see them in the paper all the time.

"That's why this was special."

The caliber of play - and the caliber of the players - helped that out.

"This was big," North guard Tavis Green said. "They were champs of their conference, and we were champs of ours. We said if we beat them, we could have had won that conference at well."

Instead, the Patriots captured the flag for public school dominance in central Maryland. They'll next get Paint Branch at home Friday in their quest to add to their seven state titles.

"This was real big," Thomas said. "Now we've got the final at home. This is excellent."

North, meanwhile, will have to stare at its one state championship banner and wonder. The Hubs were a victim of an enrollment shuffle two years ago - a 2A school in the 3A playoffs.

Next season, North will fall back to 2A, away from the Paint Branches and Thomas Johnsons of the world. Two seasons in Class 3A have resulted in 40 wins - and not even a trip to a regional final.

"In this region, there's already four or five really good teams that have been disappointed," McNamee said. "It's a shame we've been this strong and we're not there. Whoever is going to get out of here is certainly going to earn it."

The Hubs ended up earning a little respect. And nothing more.

"This was the greatest season ever," North senior Evan Medley said.

"Until now."

Dan Spears is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. You can reach him at 301-733-5131 ext. 2334 or by e-mail at dans@herald-mail.com

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