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Hubs shake sluggish start

January 22, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

With 26 minutes of basketball yet to be played Monday night, North Hagerstown was not about to wave any white flags surrendering to Smithsburg.

The Leopards staggered the home-standing Hubs with an 18-6 flourish at the outset of the contest, but North Hagerstown (11-2, 7-2) poked away and eventually turned the tide for a 65-55 Monocacy Valley Athletic League victory.

Behind six points from Ryan Marquiss and five from David Gouff, Smithsburg (7-4, 4-4) scored eight points off four turnovers and was clicking on all cylinders until the Hubs took a timeout with just more than two minutes left in the period.

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Marshall Branch helped North close within 18-13 at the break, and the Hubs managed to forge a 29-29 tie at halftime, largely due to the performance of 6-foot-6 Clay Bellon. In the middle, Bellon pounded the boards for six rebounds and eight points.

"I felt very fortunate to be tied at halftime," North coach Tim McNamee said. "We knew Smithsburg was a good team, and we came out sluggish in the beginning."

North took a 27-26 lead on a basket by Arthur Claybon, its first advantage of the game.

But Smithsburg didn't relax and forged another margin deep into the third quarter, 44-38, on a 10-point run led by Nathan Steelman's five points.

McNamee finally stopped the bleeding with 55 seconds on a timeout and Quielan Grant promptly drilled a pair of buckets before the buzzer.

"I might have waited too long for a timeout, but I told the kids to hang tough," McNamee said.

Midway through the final quarter and with Bellon off the floor due to a sprained ankle, Claybon gave the Hubs a 52-51 lead and Smithsburg's Corey Brown came back with a pair of free throws.

"Even with Clay out, we matched up with them pretty well," McNamee said.

Enter Bernard Harris with a bucket for a 54-53 lead, immediately followed with a 3-pointer from the right wing that pretty much singed the Leopards.

Four free throws and a pair of buckets sealed the deal for North, which shot 9 of 14 from the floor in the final quarter.

Harris, scoreless in the first half, came alive with 15 second-half points.

"I sat him (Harris) down, and I even told him if he didn't get going in the second half he'd be coming out," McNamee said.

Leopards third-year coach Eric Gerber, a member of Smithsburg's 1988 state finalist now seeking to bring back a program to its heyday, thought Harris' 3-pointer broke the back of his team.

"We came out of the gate big and responded well," said Gerber, referring to Smithsburg's heart-breaking loss to Middletown last Friday at the buzzer. "North beat us on the offensive boards and we missed some easy looks at the baskets in the second half."

Bellon finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds for North. Brown led Smithsburg with 21 points and 9 rebounds.

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