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TJ leaves plenty in reserve for another state run

March 08, 2001

TJ leaves plenty in reserve for another state run



By DAN SPEARS

dans@herald-mail.com

FREDERICK, Md. - Tyler Wingerd just stood and watched.

Jermaine Thomas, Rashad Wells and Joe Higbee, his much more heralded Thomas Johnson teammates, fielded questions, shrugged their shoulders and did what they generally do - dominate the conversation.

Then a question came at him: "So Tyler ... any pressure starting behind these guys?"

Like he has done so many times this season, Wingerd looked, took aim, and connected.

"Nah. If I have a bad game, it's not my fault," he cracked. "It must be theirs."

Wingerd and the rest of the Patriots haven't had the eye-popping numbers of the Thomas-Wells-Higbee trio, but they always have the answer whenever TJ (19-5, No. 4 Herald-Mail poll) has needed one heading into today's Class 3A semifinal against Crossland.

"They're why we're still playing," coach Tom Dickman said. "Tyler and Donnie (Wilhelm) are perfect examples. They've played their hearts out. If you would have told me that we were relying on them two months ago ..."

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Heck, if you would have asked that to Wingerd at the beginning of the season, you'd have gotten the same response.

"I didn't know what to expect. Maybe get a couple of minutes and knock down some shots," said the senior guard. "But not starting."

Sure enough, though, he and Johnny Foley and Wilhelm and fellow reserves Jermaine Williams, Jamar Garner and Kevin Rinehart have become crucial cogs in TJ's well-oiled basketball machine that is making its 13th trip to the state tournament.

"That's what a team is all about," Thomas said. "You need seven or eight guys to contribute. Whether it's rebounds, or points or not turning the ball over."

Wilhelm was the surprise star of the team's regional final win over previously undefeated Paint Branch, going off for 11 points and eight rebounds. Wingerd, meanwhile, has scored in every game but one this season.

It's that versatility that has the Patriots knowing they can win state title No. 8

"We have more than one guy that can go for 20 points in a game," Wells said. "Our main concern is just to win."

They'll have to start that concern today against Crossland (19-5), which has won 14 straight games, including a regional final upset of perennial powerhouse Annapolis.

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