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It's still TJ's time

March 01, 2001

It's still TJ's time



By DAN SPEARS

dans@herald-mail.com

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Thomas Johnson over NorthThe North Hagerstown boys basketball team knew it matched up well with Thomas Johnson going into their 3A West semifinal. The Hubs had the speed, had the defensive intensity, had the ability to win.

continued

Matching the poise of the Patriots, though, can be a near impossible task.

TJ made all the right moves down the stretch Wednesday night - hitting their free throws, holding onto the ball and getting one big offensive rebound - to hold off the Hubs 66-61 before a raucous crowd on the north side.

"It was rough and tough. A tournament game and a tournament atmosphere," TJ coach Tom Dickman said. "But we held our poise and made our free throws. ... It was a heck of a game."

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It was a heck of a game that the Hubs (21-3, No. 2 Herald-Mail poll) desperately wanted to win. An MVAL championship bolstered their confidence coming off last season's trip to the regional semifinals, but just when the Hubs would get things into gear, Jermaine Thomas and the Patriots would find their groove again.

"This hurts. This hurts real bad," senior forward Evan Medley said. "We were looking at College Park, and we couldn't even get out of Hagerstown."

The Patriots (18-5, No. 4 Herald-Mail poll) barely got out of town alive. For 2 1/2 quarters, momentum's pendulum was as steady as Big Ben. Late in the third quarter, though, Thomas let his teammates do the scoring and the momentum was off.

Thomas - the electric junior point guard who finished with 27 points - had just one basket in a 13-4 run that left the game at 50-39 and teetering on the edge of a blowout.

"We were a little confused, and then I like to get it back into motion again," Thomas said. "That's what makes us a good team."

North was nearly just as good, though, behind some desperation magic. The Hubs rattled off a 10-2 run to pull within 3, and kept banging on the door behind four 3-pointers from Scott Rice in the last 4:21. The long-range accuracy was even more of a surprise after his 3-for-13 start in the game.

"He kept us in it," North coach Tim McNamee said. "We told him to keep shooting ... like each one was his first shot of the game. But he was doing all the other things we needed out of him."

The North crowd increased the decibels after every 3, only to be silenced by solid play from TJ. The Patriots only had two turnovers in the fourth quarter and went 10-for-12 from the line over the same time to never let North get closer than three points.

For TJ, Rashad Wells had 15 points - nine in the fourth quarter - while Thomas also had 11 rebounds.

"I thought we did the little things well," Dickman said. "We inbounded the ball - and you don't know how hard that can be sometimes - and with the free throws, you don't want kids shooting that haven't been there before."

Rice finished with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Tavis Green had 15 points and Medley had 14 for North.

"We played our hardest, but we didn't execute well at times, and they took advantage," Medley said. "They took good shots and made the free throws - all the basic stuff.

"It was like looking into a mirror. We were so similar, it was scary."

T. Johnson 66, N. Hagerstown 61



THOMAS JOHNSON (66)

Williams 4, Foley 4, Thomas 27, Higbee 10, Wingerd 6, Wells 15. Totals 22-55 19-21 66.

NORTH HAGERSTOWN (61)

Rice 18, Naylor 9, Medley 14, Green 15, Watters 7. Totals 27-66 3-6 61.

TJ15141522-66

North12131224-61

Three-point goals-TJ 3 (Thomas, Higbee, Wingerd), North 4 (Rice 4). Fouled out-Green.

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