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Taking that left turn at Albuquerque

March 14, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

Random thoughts from an airplane bound for Albuquerque ...

- If Jermaine Thomas isn't one of the classiest guys you've ever met, then, well, I'm just not sure what. Saturday night after the Patriots' crushing upset in the Class 4A final, Thomas could have been upset (and probably should have been with the officials) with anyone and everyone around.

Instead, he was his typical affable self, even managing to crack a smile after being asked about Roosevelt's brutal box-and-one defense for the millionth time.

I sat next to Billy Hahn for that final - yes, THAT Billy Hahn, Thomas' coach for the next four years. Great guy. We made mostly small talk on the game, especially about Thomas' demeanor on the court: Those eyes just pleading for his teammates to somehow get him the ball. Hahn commented how Jermaine wasn't catching a break out there (and he wasn't) and said "I hope I didn't jinx him."

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Not a chance of that. If anything, Hahn got to see how truly cool one of his prize recruits is under pressure.

On a side note, my apologies to Roosevelt for the incorrect statement in my article. The Raiders won their first title that night, not their second. In my race to beat deadline on Saturday night, I simply thought, "Man, they had Delonte West last year. He's playing well at St. Joseph's. They MUST have won."

Well, they didn't.

Years from now, they'll probably be thinking the same thing about TJ's 2001-2002 team.

- I'm not sure which hurt more for the South High boys: Losing to Pocomoke without Dom Richmond or watching the Warriors dismantle much-hyped Dunbar in the Class 1A final on Saturday afternoon.

To be sure, Pocomoke is a wonderful team, full of non-selfish players who can shoot the ball. If it sounds a lot like this season's Rebels, it should; the two teams were a carbon-copy of each other until Richmond was suspended from the team.

But Pocomoke was also completely beatable. With Richmond and his ball-handling wizardry in the lineup, Pocomoke's press becomes nothing special - he would have simply been too quick and knowledgeable for it to work. And to see Richmond vs. TyRon Northam in the post would have been truly entertaining.

The rest of the Rebels did give it their all; they just couldn't adjust to life without Richmond fast enough.

Oh by the way, does Shannon Suttle have the sweetest 15-footer jumper on the planet or what? They say the mid-range jumper is a lost art today; Suttle's shot is simply a classic.

- Kudos to Scott Rice on setting North's school record for points scored in the Hubs' Class 2A semifinal loss to Wicomico. But he gets bigger kudos for keeping his head on straight in the last two games of the season despite some woeful shooting.

His court knowledge in the Middletown game swung momentum at the end of regulation and overtime, and his hustle and grit nearly pulled off the rally of the millennium against Wicomico.

Putting points on the board will certainly get you some recognition, but it's the intangibles that make the best players. Those are the reasons Rice is going to Division I Elon in the fall.

- NCAA Tournament time is here ... Thank the gods. I'll be in the stands this weekend here in Albuquerque, and yes, I filled out a bracket.

And now the burning question for all of you that have seethed over me for two weeks: Did he pick Maryland to win? Well, I've got them in the Final Four ... although it was awful tough to pick them vs. Marquette.

But remember, there's money on the line; everything is subjective now - just like it was before. Except for Duke. I'll always hate Duke.

Dan Spears is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 2334 or dans@herald-mail.com

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