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Thomas Johnson are bunch of streaking Thomases

March 08, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Thomas Johnson boys basketball coach Tom Dickman said junior forward Thomas Richard isn't quite a great player - yet.

Thursday night in the Class 4A semifinals against defending champion Magruder, Richard showed he could be well on his way.

Richard scored 28 points - 15 of them in the pivotal third quarter - and grabbed a dozen rebounds to lead the Patriots to a 70-61 victory over the Colonels at Cole Field House and moved within one victory of their eighth state championship. The final step comes Saturday at 7 against Eleanor Roosevelt.

"Get open and follow shots, that's what coach asked me to do," Richard said.

Richard makes it sound so simple, and he made it look that way as well. In a tie game at halftime, Richard scored eight of his team's first 10 points of the third quarter, but Magruder shredded the Patriots' trademark pressure defense and led 42-39 with 4:04 left in the quarter.

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TJ (26-1) scrapped its traditional pressure defense, and took all the pressure off its offense in the process. While the Patriots clogged the lane, they found their rhythm on the offensive end. They closed the quarter on a 14-2 run, buoyed by four assists from Jermaine Thomas and a backbreaking 3 by Kevin Rinehart at the buzzer for a 53-44 lead.

Rinehart hit four 3s in the game, taking advantage of Magruder's zone defense for 12 points.

"The assistant coaches said I had to be ready," Rinehart said. "I had confidence, got my feet set and they went in."

Richard added seven more points in the run, and it paved the way for Thomas to take over in the fourth quarter. Held to just 10 points in the first three quarters, the two-time All-Area selection and LaSalle signee controlled the tempo and the Colonels in the final frame, scoring nine points and getting three steals to help put the game away.

"We have an excellent team," said Thomas, who finished with 10 assists. "Thomas Richard, excellent player. Kevin Rinehart, excellent player. D.D. Gibbs, Nate Naylor ... We have a team. That's what won this game. We are not all about one guy."

While TJ pulled away as a team, they also fell behind as a group early in this one. Magruder, which led metro Washington with almost nine 3-pointers a game, came out firing. The Colonels (22-4) went 4-for-6 from long range in the first quarter and led 22-15. They still led by seven with 2:34 left in the first half, but turned the ball over twice and gave up a 7-0 run to Thomas and Richard.

"We didn't play our best basketball," Rinehart said. "But coach said we'd be all right because we could play better than that. He had confidence in us."

The Patriots responded by shooting 15-for-18 from the field in the second half, while the Colonels could only go 13-for-30. Their struggles were compounded by Richard, Thomas and Luke Ledyard on the glass. In the final two quarters, the trio grabbed 12 rebounds; Magruder only got seven as a team, and could get no closer than 64-58 with 2:32 to play.

"I'd been struggling with the rebounds, and I wanted to get on the glass especially tonight," Richard said. "I'd been trying to just outjump guys. You gotta body guys out to get it. Today, it was in my head, 'Box out, box out.'"

Maybe his next mantra should be, "State champs, state champs."

THOMAS JOHNSON (70)

Thomas 6-15 5-7 19, Richard 12-16 1-1 28, Ledyard 1-4 0-0 2, Gibbs 0-2 2-3 2, Naylor 3-4 0-0 6, Rinehart 4-7 0-0 12, Garner 0-0 1-2 1, Bryant 0-0 0-0 0, Gaeng 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-48 9-13 70..

MAGRUDER (61)

Swann 7-16 0-1 18, Paelay 8-14 0-1 19, Roach 1-2 0-0 2, Talesnick 3-9 0-0 8, Palmer 4-9 0-0 8, Giles 1-3 0-0 3, Defibaugh 1-1 0-0 3, Smith 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-53 0-2 61.

T. Johnson15142417-70

Magruder2271517-61

Three-point goals-T. Johnson 9-21 (Thomas 2-8, Richard 3-6, Gibbs 0-1, Rinehart 4-6), Magruder 11-31 (Swann 4-12, Paelay 3-8, Talesnick 2-6, Palmer 0-1, Giles 1-3, Defibaugh 1-1).

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