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North boys fall is state semifinal-Friday

March 22, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - In the first half of Friday night's Class 2A state semifinal game against Wicomico, the North Hagerstown basketball team was left behind. Midway through the third quarter, it was left for dead.

By the end of the game, the Hubs nearly left the crowd speechless.

Down by 25 points with four minutes left in the third quarter and going nowhere fast, the Hubs nearly pulled off one of the biggest shockers in state tournament history, getting within four points of the stunned Indians before falling 69-61 at Cole Field House.

"We just never gave up," North guard Tavis Green said. "We figured eventually something would drop."

For most of the game, the crowd figured it would be the other shoe. Undefeated Wicomico (26-0), looking for vengeance after falling in the state title game last season, opened with a fury and didn't let up. Leading 11-8 four minutes into the game, the high-octane Indians abused North on the break and on the backboards for a 15-0 run over just 2 1/2 minutes.

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"We're used to being the quick ones and we weren't," North coach Tim McNamee said. "It took us a while to adjust. Of course, people back home have said the same things about us."

North (22-4) crawled back to respectability early in the second quarter, pulling within 30-16, but was quickly smacked back into the hole as Wicomico used a dazzling array of textbook passes for a 16-5 run to close the half and take a 46-21 lead.

"Give them credit, they played very well," McNamee said. "But I didn't know if they could do it for 32 minutes."

The Indians were headed exactly for their average of 92 points per game, and North seemed stuck in the path of a speeding train.

"It's not that we thought we couldn't win, but the big thing was that we didn't come down here to get embarrassed," North forward Scott Rice said.

Green said it more straightforward: "We still had 16 minutes left."

The first four were burned on a stalemate to open the second half, and North's climb out of the grave started innocently enough on two Rice free throws for a 50-27 game with 3:35 left in the period.

A pair of Wicomico turnovers and two missed lay-ins resulted in three more scores for North and a 9-0 run which mushroomed with one minute left in the third quarter.

Following a Wicomico miss, Clif Carey threw a magnificent bounce pass through traffic to Green on the break. The senior hit the layup, was fouled, and Indians center Josh Wulff doubled his misery with a technical foul.

Green hit his free throw, Rice hit the two technicals and followed with a dribble drive for a seven-point play that capped a 16-point spree and made it 50-41.

"We didn't let down, but we had no intensity," Wicomico coach Butch Waller said. "And (North's) a good team. You don't get this far if you're not. And they had momentum, all the way down to the end."

North continued packing things in and slowing down the tempo, thanks to strong rebounding and a great pick-me-up from reserve center Matt Reed.

The lead was 60-55 with 2:08 to play - the third time North got within five - before the Hubs started fouling. Wicomico's solid free-throw shooting, 9-for-12 down the stretch, combined with North's game-long shooting woes were simply too much to overcome. The Hubs got to 65-61 with 14.8 seconds to play, but that was it.

The comeback itself was shocking, what made it whiplash-inducing was North's field-goal percentage: 28.6 percent (20-for-70), including 2-for-22 from 3-point range.

"If we shoot the ball at all, I mean at all, we win the game," McNamee said. "I really believe that."

Green led the way with 20 points. Carey had 12 and Rice finished with 13, enough to make him North's all-time leading scorer with 1,112 career points.

"We have nothing to be ashamed of," McNamee said. "Yeah, we're disappointed we didn't win, but even with all that, we can't hang our head. Effort-wise, we were fantastic."

"That's what I said to everyone in the locker room," Rice said. "That was a heck of a second half."

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