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North boys try to get all the right answers

March 08, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - For a group that had all the answers most of their careers, the North Hagerstown boys basketball team had never gotten the chance to pose the question of "What if?"

Heading into their final postseason, the Hubs' seniors, in three years on the varsity level, compiled a 59-11 record. They won the school's first league title in 30 years in 2001 and were bearing down on a school record for wins in a season.

But they had never played for a spot in the state tournament.

"This was our chance," forward Scott Rice said. "We've all been friends and we've been talking about it all year. We were a little down after losing the MVAL, but we knew we wanted to go to states, and we could still do that."

Saturday night's thrilling overtime win against Middletown in the Class 2A West final took care of that, as the Hubs put their team in Cole Field House for the first time since 1977.

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"Over the years, we've had some really good teams with 18-19 wins and nothing to show for it," said coach Tim McNamee, who won a state title as a player at North in 1972, but had never coached a team to the state semifinals.

"This is nice for our seniors, and for all those other guys that didn't get this chance."

Every one of North's players will cherish the memory, to be sure. Point guard Clif Carey, though, may keep it closer to his heart than others. Two of his older brothers, Avery (1992-94) and Devin (1995-98) were standout players that only went to Cole as spectators.

"It's just so wonderful because it's been so many years," Clif said. "My brothers were here, too, and I'm the only Carey that's gone this far."

Whether the brothers Carey and the rest of the Hubs get any farther is the next question. Today's semifinal against East region champion Wicomico should provide a huge test. The Indians, last year's runner-up, are undefeated on the season and average a staggering 92.1 points per game - including a mind-bending 137-point night against Kent County on Jan. 7.

"This group won't be intimidated by anyone," McNamee said. "They realize they have to play very well, but our seniors have played in big games. For them, it's all in the way they approach this."

In the last two games, the approach has been measured by how many dunks Tavis Green can get off in the fourth quarter. The senior forward sparked the team down the stretch, making statements early in the game and adding exclamation points at the end.

Add in Rice - who leads the team in the four major statistical categories - Carey and new super-sub Eugene Taylor, the Hubs know the question now isn't "What if?" but "Why not?"

"I'm not worried," Carey said. "If we just play our game, we'll come out OK. It's not about hwo they play, it's about how we play."

"The game's going to be tough, but it's going to be exciting, too," Rice said. "It's sad that this will be our last time together, but at least you get to play down at Cole Field House."

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