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Blazers turn up heat on SF

December 27, 2003|by BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - It wasn't the game the Clear Spring boys basketball team would brag about.

The Blazers struggled to get the ball inside and didn't fare much better when they went to the perimeter against Southern Fulton Friday in the opening round of the Great Tri-State Shootout Rotary Tournament.

There were too many missed shots, fumbled rebounds and lost opportunities. But that gave Blazerscoach Don Harnish all the more reason to smile after Clear Spring's 53-39 win the Indians in the much anticipated rematch of last year's championship game.

The Blazers will face host Berkeley Springs, a 68-54 winner over Hancock in the nightcap. Ryan Morris and Mark Rockwell combined for 36 points to lead the Indians.

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"Wow," Harnish said shaking his head as he looked hard at the stats from the game. "Sometimes you just get away with one."

But Clear Spring (5-0) earned this one by staying patient throughout the game against a disciplined Southern Fulton team, which just made a few mistakes in critical spots.

The slow-starting Blazers struggled through the first quarter before gassing Southern Fulton with a 37-12 run in the middle 16 minutes of the game.

Southern Fulton's Brock Flowers and Jay Ifert each had 13 points to lead the Indians, but struggled through the middle quarters as the Blazers gained control.

Clear Spring's Cody Beard led the Blazers with 18 points, but more importantly used some slick ball handling and uncanny court vision to find forward Zeb Jacobs behind the staunch Southern Fulton defense for some easy layups.

"We struggled, especially at first, to get our offense rolling," Harnish said. "But the kids stayed focused and patient. We have our eye on the big prize and there are a lot of minutes out there to clear things up."

The Indians tightened up their defense on the 6-foot-6 Alex Tyler in the paint, allowing Beard to work the sides of the lane to help the Blazers comfortably pull away by the start of the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Tyler controlled the defensive glass by pulling down 16 rebounds to go with his 10 points.

"We are where we wanted to be." Harnish said.

In the nightcap, Berkeley Springs rallied from a 30-23 halftime deficit after Hancock's Jeff Willison was whistled for his third and fourth fouls in a 22-second span to open the second half.

The 6-5 Willison was relegated to the bench for the third quarter, allowing the Indians to take advantage of the void.

"That hurt us a little," Hancock coach Jeff Spielman said. "We still played gutty in there, but when a starter goes out, there is a whole lot of adjustments you have to make."

A Rockwell jumper in the lane gave the Indians their first lead at 39-37 with just over three minutes to play in the third quarter and never look back.

As the Indians gained control, the athleticism of Rockwell and junior Tony Belt, who scored 13 points, made the Panthers' job more difficult.

But Hancock's Brad Spielman and Andy Morris kept the Panthers close until late into the fourth quarter. Spielman had a team-high 14 points while Morris drained two 3-pointers. Senior Billy Truax added seven points off the bench for Hancock.

"I'm not faulting the effort - it's all there," Spielman said. "I know the kids are frustrated with losing. We have to stay focused and believe that good things can happen for us."

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