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It's all possible for 'Dogs

COLUMN -

March 15, 2001

COLUMN - It's all possible for 'Dogs



By DAN SPEARS


To keep a group of teenagers in focus ... well, that's more or less impossible.

It takes an unbelievable amount of patience and well-timed words, plus a little luck. Help from a higher power is optional, but never declined.

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Now add one bouncing orange ball.

Martinsburg boys basketball coach Dave Rogers has kept his Bulldogs in focus this season. They've lost just twice in the new millennium and are making their second straight trip to the Class AAA state tournament in Charleston tonight to play Robert C. Byrd at 7:30.

"It's open this year. We're good. There's a lot of good teams," guard Buck Springette said. "If we play Martinsburg basketball, we'll be fine."

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They're doing it with 10 juniors, a precocious freshman and one senior, who's the team's sixth man.

Oh, to look ahead and ponder ... Martinsburg has done that. Last year, all those sophomores surrouding Michael Wright. The loss to Wheeling Park hurt, but not too bad - hey, we'll be back next year.

"A lot of us just froze. I did too," Springette said. "That's a whole new atmosphere down there. Now, we've been through that ... All I've thought about is going back to Charleston."

This is where Rogers' job becomes tough, keeping his team focused on the here and now.

So far, he's done the job.

Just as easily, though, the Bulldogs could look ahead again. Rogers may have all those guys back again. Four senior starters playing in three straight state tournaments.

So far, he's done the job.

"We think we've got a good chance to get past the first round and get over the hump," said center Kevin Pittsnogle.

But Rogers must convince the Bulldogs to do more than just get over the hump. They must ride down the other side in a blaze of glory. They must play their game - that lethal man-to-man pressure - for 32 minutes. And then 32 more minutes. And then 32 more minutes.

"The ultimate goal is to win a state championship and come home with the rings," said J.J. Bullett, the team's only senior. "We've worked hard and played a hard schedule. In the long run, we'll be glad."

For Bullett, the long run has become an all-out sprint. For his teammates, the race is coming to an interesting crossroads. "We can win it all now," intertwines with "Well, there's always next year."

What the Bulldogs need to do is take the road less traveled. Martinsburg needs to win now.

If there's any doubt about that, Rogers and the Bulldogs don't need to look very far for an example: their own gym.

The Martinsburg girls returned four senior starters, plus a 5-foot-11 transfer. After falling in the regional final the year before, the Bulldogs thought this was their shot. By the end of the season, only one of those players was starting because of torn ACLs, concussions and life-or-death surgery.

Sometimes, even if there seem to be two or three chances, there's really only one.

For three more days, Rogers must, more or less, do the impossible.

Dan Spears is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 2334 or at dans@herald-mail.com

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