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Hubs strongarm way to victory

December 20, 2003|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

It's been said before and will be said again that Bernard Harris, Marshall Branch and Quielan Gantt hold the keys to how well No. 3 North Hagerstown's boys basketball team fares this season.

But on Friday night against Urbana - with two of the "Big Three" struggling to less than their best games - role-players came up big for the Hubs.

Point guard Matt Armstrong had 10 of his 14 points in the second half, and reserves Chris Grove and Tyrell Wilson gave North much-needed sparks in a 73-65 victory over the Hawks that was tougher than expected.

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"(Opponents) look for (the big three) to shoot, and they don't pay attention to a lot of the other brothers on the team," Armstrong said. "If they have a bad game, we can pick it up."

The entire team needed a wake-up call after playing a sluggish first half. North's defense created only three Urbana turnovers and routinely lost track of the Hawks' spot-up shooters - specifically Brian Mohns, who torched the Hubs for 22 first-half points on six 3-pointers as Urbana built a 35-27 halftime lead. Mohns finished with 31 points and seven 3s.

"I've been concerned with our defense since Nov. 15," North coach Tim McNamee said, "and tonight was no different. We've had trouble defending people all year, and we have to get that fixed. Part of it's intensity. This club has a tendency to relax, and we need to learn the game's 32 minutes."

"We were surprised," Armstrong said. "We knew they had a nice team, but we didn't know they were that tough. We needed more intensity."

Enter Armstrong himself, who jump-started the Hubs (4-1) with a couple steals and several hard drives to the hoop. He also got others involved on the offensive end, as Grove (nine points, seven after halftime) and Wilson (seven points) joined Harris (22 points, 16 after halftime), Gantt (11 points) and Branch (10 points) in rallying North.

"Coach said we was playing too much individual ball, and he wanted us to run our offense, get everyone some touches and see what happens," Armstrong said.

North used an 11-0 run over a three-minute stretch of the fourth quarter to put the game away. Branch made two foul shots to start things, Wilson nailed a wide-open 3-pointer from the right wing, Harris scored a basket in transition and Armstrong made two free throws and added his own transition layup following a steal to give the Hubs a 67-57 lead with less than two minutes left.

"(Armstrong) played a good game, Wilson played a good game and Grove gave us some energy off the bench," McNamee said.

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