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Basketball notes - Cadets poised to challenge Patriots

January 10, 2003|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

For a decade, Thomas Johnson's boys have had the best of Frederick in their matchups. But for the first time in recent history, the Battle of Frederick may actually be a battle.

Sure, TJ (10-0) is rolling along again as the first days of 2003 pass by. The Patriots are the only remaining unbeaten team in the area, led by Thomas Richard and Demetrius Bryant.

But Frederick (7-3) has played quality basketball over the first month of the season, buoyed by Curtis Crews and the return from injury of Elyon Bush, and the Cadets have Patriots coach Tom Dickman concerned heading into today's meeting at TJ.

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"Frederick has a very good team this year," Dickman said. "In Curtis Crews they have one of the dominant inside players in the area, and Bush is one of the better players in the area, too. We'll have to be concerned with both of them, they can both score and rebound."

The Patriots have shot the lights out through their first 10 games, none more so than Bryant. In averaging 14.6 points per contest, the senior forward has made 59 of 76 field goal attempts, an astonishing 78 percent.

Dickman said Bryant's effort on the defensive end often leads to high-percentage looks for him at the other end.

"Demetrius is a key part of our defense," Dickman said. "He sets the tone for how we play defensively, and he contributes scoring and rebounding. He's an important player for us every game."

Richard is TJ's most valuable all-around player, averaging 18.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game. He's a deadly outside shooter, having made 18 of 35 attempts from behind the arc (51 percent).

Frederick will counter with a pressure defense, and will need Crews (about 23 points per game) and Bush (about 15 points per game) to step up offensively to counter TJ's threats.

"We have to handle Frederick's pressure and our shot selection will be important," Dickman said. "We don't get a lot of offensive rebounds, so the shots we take, we need to make sure they're good shots, and for the most part this year we've been good at that."

In order for the Cadets to win tonight, coach Derek Shackleford said he'll be looking for two things.

"Two keys will be critical. One is how well early we're getting the ball inside, and the other is how well we're rebounding," Shackleford said. "Are we scoring the ball inside and in the post, and are we rebounding well."

"I believe it will come down to the wire," Dickman said. "They have been good all year. When Linganore beat them, they were missing Bush, and he's a big part of their game. Now that he's back and healthy, it's a toss-up game."

And that is certainly something new for Frederick.

"That makes for a great rivalry ... the fact both teams are playing well this year," Shackleford said. "It's a great game for the fans and an excellent game for the players. It's a great atmosphere for all of us. It's the most excitement (at Frederick) since I've been there."

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