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Hancock finally gets better of Clear Spring

January 16, 2002

Hancock finally gets better of Clear Spring



By BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent


CLEAR SPRING - For the Clear Spring boys basketball team Tuesday night, bigger wasn't neccessarily better in its game against rival Hancock.

The Panthers combined a balanced zone defense with an aggressive press-breaking offense in the second half to win western Washington County's version of the "Backyard Brawl" 70-65 before a packed house at Clear Spring.

Hancock (5-5) took advantage of a tactical error by Clear Spring coach Don Harnish at the start of the fourth quarter.

Harnish emptied his bench of big men in an effort to neutralize the rebounding of Panthers center Brandon Fling.

The move backfired as Hancock buried the Blazers under an avalanche of easy layups by Fling and John Poffenberger. Poffenberger scored 10 of his 14 points in a 17-8 run that gave Hancock a comfortable 62-48 lead with just under four minutes left in the game.

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"We were rebounding all right, but we were way too slow on both ends of the floor," Harnish said. "Hancock turned it loose and made a nice run that put us in a hole."

The Blazers closed within five points twice in the last four minutes, but the Panthers held them at arm's length as time expired.

"We came out and recognized they had those bigger kids in the game," Hancock coach Jeff Spielman said. "We had players open under the basket every time and sort of gained a quick advantage."

Hancock's win avenged a holiday tournament loss to the Blazers and halted a five-game skid in the series spanning two seasons.

"It sure feels good to break the streak," Hancock's Chris Wills said. "There were some copies of the article from our last game in the locker room, but honestly, no one had to remind us of that."

Wills carried the nightmare of his last game, a five-point, five-foul effort in which the Panthers lost by more than 20 points.

On Tuesday, the senior guard had 21 points, including four 3-pointers.

Hancock point guard play Jeremy Newton, who missed the last game between the two teams, committed only two turnovers and scored eight points.

"We tell them all along that when we get solid guard play, we can take care of the other things." Spielman said. "But first, you always have to take care of the ball."

That's a point that Harnish will be making with the Blazers this week in practice.

"We had critical turnovers down the stretch," Harnish said. "We would play hard and climb back into this thing and then dish it up."

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