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South's show must go on

March 07, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

All season long, the play of the South Hagerstown basketball team spoke volumes.

The Rebels silenced their preseason naysayers with a Monocacy Valley Athletic League title, then quieted their postseason critics with a gutty West region title game victory over Southern Garrett on Saturday night.

Now all of them - and plenty of their friends - went back to ragging the Rebels when point guard Domonique Richmond was suspended from the team on Monday after being arrested on charges of drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.

It turns Friday's Class 1A state semifinal against Pocomoke into another watershed moment for a team that's truly tired of all this talk.

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"Other people's opinion doesn't have any effect on this anymore," senior Nick Maas said. "We are still together as a team. We're still 13 guys that are going after the same goal."

Returning just one starter from last season - Richmond - South has gone from afterthought to forefront when it comes to area basketball. It won its first 17 games of the season and takes a 24-1 record into Friday's game.

With the Richmond fiasco, it's a mark coach Bob Starkey says will be printed with an asterisk in the record books.

"No one's going to remember these kids going 24-1, they're going to think about this," Starkey said. "That will be the stigma this team will have to carry."

The Rebels, however, don't buy into the monkey-on-their-back theory. Yes, the Rebels admit they were shocked at Richmond's arrest. Yes, they still have all sorts of feelings on the situation, ranging from frustration to confusion.

But they don't feel a complete sense of loss. For them, this thing is far from over.

"We're making progress one day at a time," senior Kevin Rideout said. "But we've prepared the whole season for this. Losing Domonique hurts us, sure. But we're ready. We are more than one guy. We are ready."

"This game is our saving grace," senior center Scott Barish said. "We can all band together. The next game can always be the last one now and I don't want it to be. This is our chance to shine."

"A lot of people doubted us this year," Maas said. "And it was good to see the surprise on their faces when South put another win on the board.

"And a lot more people doubt us now. But with this group, another win will be nothing surprising."

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