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Patriots sink Lions in final minute

December 20, 2003|by CURT HORNBECKER

FREDERICK, Md. - Walkersville coach Bruce Zimmerman had history on his side, but the Thomas Johnson boys basketball team wasn't fazed in the least.

The No. 6 Patriots hit only eight of their first 14 attempts from the free-throw line, but drained five of six in the final 51 seconds - when the No. 4 Lions were forced to foul - to secure a 42-39 win over Walkersville in a tightly matched defensive battle Friday night.

TJ (2-1) led by a pair with 1:03 left when Walkersville's Chris Hannigan was unable to convert an opportunity to tie the game on an uncontested layup. The Patriots controlled the rebound and Colby Jackson was sent to the free-throw line where he converted one of two for a 38-35 advantage.

Brandon Geppert hit a pair of free throws at the opposite end to close the gap to one, but Walkersville (3-2) would get no closer.

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"I couldn't be any more pleased," said TJ coach Tim Abercrombie. "We anticipated this kind of game, and 42-39 tells you what kind of defense both teams played. To our advantage, it was a low-scoring game."

Walkersville appeared ready to break the game open early in the second period, when - after the teams combined for just 11 points on four of 29 shooting in the first quarter - the Lions went on a 9-1 run to take a 15-8 lead.

But sparked by four points from Jackson, the Pats responded by scoring 10 of the final 12 points of the half to claim an 18-17 margin at the intermission. After that, three points was the largest lead for either team.

TJ was forced to play a large portion of the game without the services of starting center Matt Fast, who ran into foul trouble early and fouled out of the game with 2:29 left. But thanks to the Patriots' smothering pressure defense, Walkersville was unable to take advantage.

"As much pressure as (TJ) puts on you, it's hard to get the ball inside," said Zimmerman. "Year in and year out, they have one of the best defenses in the state. It's tough just to pass the ball against them. They took away what we wanted to do offensively."

That's exactly what TJ had in mind.

"That was part of our gameplan," said Abercrombie. "We wanted to pressure them and make their entry passes to the low post as difficult as possible."

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