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Patriots weather storm, hold off North, 61-53

December 23, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

The No. 6 Thomas Johnson boys basketball team inflated its early lead just enough to float safely to shore Monday night at North Hagerstown, holding off the No. 3 Hubs, 61-53.

The Patriots (3-1) took a 26-7 lead at the end of the first quarter and then held on for dear life.

"We wanted to come out and jump on them on the road and set the tone," said TJ senior point guard Drew Gaeng, whose bucket in the opening moments of the second quarter gave the Patriots their biggest lead of the night at 28-7, "because, of course, at home, they're going to make a run."

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North (4-2), fueled by nine of junior guard Quielan Gantt's 13 points, outscored the Patriots 15-7 in the second quarter to get back in the game and stayed within striking distance, trailing 33-22 at the half and 46-33 at the end of three quarters.

Hubs senior swingman Bernard Harris took over with his inside play in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his game-high 17 points, as the Hubs cut the score to 57-53 with 32 seconds remaining.

"North's just very athletic," TJ coach Tim Abercrombie said. "They have that capability to run off points in bunches."

But TJ held off the hosts at the foul line, hitting 13 of its 17 free throws, including seven of eight from Gaeng, in the final quarter and six of six in the final minute.

"You have to give our kids credit," Abercrombie said. "We were able to slow the ball down and make free throws. We didn't do things perfectly, but we did them well enough to win.

"The early cushion was the key to our game. That allowed us to make up for our execution errors down the stretch."

The Patriots, who finished 20 of 45 from the field, were 11 of 17 in the opening quarter. Senior guard Colby Jackson hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first three minutes and scored all eight of his points in the quarter, while senior center Matt Fast, who led TJ on the boards with 10 rebounds, scored eight of his 10 points, all from the paint.

North, which was 21 of 58 shooting, shot 3 of 10 in the first quarter.

"It was a combination of two things. We didn't play well and they did," North coach Tim McNamee said. "It's tough to get in a hole like that. It was an uphill battle the whole way.

"We didn't play too badly for three quarters, but this club has to understand that the game is four quarters long, especially against a quality opponent."

Junior forward Jair Brady led TJ with 15 points, while Gaeng had 13.

Junior point guard Matt Armstrong had 15 points for the Hubs.

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