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South needs to regain upward track

March 08, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The South Hagerstown boys basketball team expected a wild ride if it wanted to advance to the Class 1A state semifinals at Cole Field House this season.

The Rebels just didn't expect the roller coaster they've been on for the last week.

But like most amusement park veterans, the senior-laden team mastered this adventure too, and are ready for the next move - rise or fall - this afternoon against Pocomoke.

"Having this many seniors is definitely helping," guard Nick Maas said. "Our experience ... it gets our thoughts off the week and onto Friday and how we're going out to play. That's what we've done best all year."

South's season started peaking early, climbed another level at the end of the regular season with a league title and was headed for a pinnacle with its West region title.

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Then came that vicious drop on Monday, when point guard Domonique Richmond was suspended. Today, the 24-1 Rebels aren't sure what's next: the loop or the corkscrew.

If the team's seven remaining seniors have it figured right, they're headed back up already.

"As soon as we got in the locker room on Monday, everybody was real down," guard Kevin Rideout said.

"But as seniors, we had to step up. Every one of us got up and said something. We can't let one thing destroy everything we've done."

The seniors mended the team's psyche; their coach is working on the playbook. Richmond led the team in points, rebounds, steals and assists.

"He was the one guy I rarely subbed for," South coach Bob Starkey said. "The rest of these guys can play interchangeable parts, but he was our Energizer Bunny, just go and go and go.

"But the last two or three games, David Miner's gotten to run some point, and these kids ... this is the closest-knit team I've ever had. They've done everything I asked of them. They taking all the scathing I can throw them and make themselves better."

Despite all their experience and fortitude, the question remains - have the Rebels had enough time for their makeover against the 23-2 Warriors, whose only losses were to 2A East champion Wicomico.

For some, the wild ride will continue. For others, it doesn't really matter anymore where this one ends.

"The focus is on everybody stepping up now," Rideout said. "Coach always tells us, 'It's not the size of the man, it's the size of the fight in the man.' That's what gets it done."

"It's important for us to be respectable," Starkey said. "But what a bonus if these kids can win today. After that, we'll take whatever."

"The whole season, we talked about going to Cole Field House," senior center Scott Barish said. "This is special. Whatever Domonique did can't take away what's happened this season. One man can't take away a 24-1 record."

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