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Forecast in question for Hawks

February 17, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Usually, barometer readings from Cumberland, Md., give indications of possible snowfall.

Kenny Keyes will be taking a couple of readings of his own today to see if Hagerstown Community College is able to avoid an avalanche.

The first is the weather, just to see if HCC will be able to play Allegany College today at 7 p.m. in the second of a possible four meetings of the two teams. Things snowballed for Keyes, the HCC coach, in the first meeting as he sat through a 95-64 home loss to the Trojans on Jan. 17.

The second reading comes on the improvement meter. Keyes wants to find out if HCC has improved over the last month to make itself a serious threat in the upcoming Maryland JuCo Conference and Region XX tournaments.

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"This is what we play for," Keyes said of the next 15 days. "It all comes down to that final possible meeting with Allegany (on March 2) for the region title. This game will see how we have progressed. It will be a barometer for me to see if we have progressed or regressed."

HCC (14-11, 10-7) has had more ups and downs than a Duncan Yo-Yo this season. The Hawks are used to being one of the top two or three teams in the league, but they're settling for a middle of the pack finish.

Teams like Allegany and Frederick have picked HCC apart with the inside game, but the Hawks rebounded recently to beat Prince George's, one of the biggest teams in the league. HCC has beaten teams like rival Garrett with its backcourt play, but the Hawks' guards mailed in the effort on Wednesday in a 10-point loss to Dundalk.

"That's the way it's been all season ... we play well and we win. We don't play well and we lose," Keyes said. "We aren't that big and we aren't that good, so we have to play well all the time."

So, if the weather cooperates, Keyes will get the chance to experiment against Allegany. This game doesn't count in the Maryland JuCo standings (only one of the two meetings are for league standings), so the Hawks can go for broke while Keyes tinkers with combinations and matchups.

"I want to start with a big team against them and try to match up with them," Keyes said. "Then later, I want to use a smaller, quicker team. I hope we can be like Cecil, play Allegany close for most of the game and then beat them at the end."

Keyes is putting the onus on 6-foot-5 center Mike Lee along with Peter Sajery and Gebront Gaddy to work on Allegany's trio of big men - Kevin Mickens, Winston Robinson and Herbert Jones - who combined for 36 points in the first meeting.

"Mike has to step up and be the man," Keyes said. "We've been starting him all this way just to get him ready to play Allegany, to bang on them and tire their big guys out. We sent Peter out there and we have another wide body."

The Hawks will be at full strength for this Allegany matchup. HCC played without Nate Naylor, Nagee Johnson and Sajery, who missed the game because of academics.

"Those three should have a bearing on this game," Keyes said. "Nate is our best defensive player while Nagee is one of our better rebounders and Peter gives us a lift off the bench."

The main thing at stake for HCC in this meeting with Allegany may be the mental aspect of the game. What happens tonight might just have a bearing on how the Hawks play in the two tournaments ahead.

"If we play well or win, it should give us confidence to get to the finals in the Region and to work our way through the JuCo tournament," Keyes said. "You never know what's going to happen in the JuCo. We just want the chance to win that last one against Allegany (in the Region final). All the other games against them are just practice leading to that one."

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