Bulldogs win reunion game

December 31, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

Round One to Martinsburg.

There were three of the Tri-State area's most celebrated athletes on the floor - David Miner, Brandon Barrett and Nate Sowers.

There was South coach Bob Starkey and one of his former players from Shepherd College, Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers.

It was South Hagerstown and Martinsburg playing basketball against one another for the first time in 15 years.

Dick Vitale - where were you?

In front of a packed house Tuesday night, unbeaten Martinsburg (4-0) staggered South (5-2) with its second straight loss at home, 64-60. The two will hook up again Feb. 7 at Martinsburg.

South's Miner was held to 15 points, 17 below his average. Barrett is not expected to score but to run the Martinsburg offense from his point guard position, which he did well. Sowers was benched 1:12 into the game with two personal fouls and did not return until the third period.


And there was the Starkey-Rogers matchup as the two met on the sidelines for the first time. Rogers played at Shepherd from 1969-73 during Starkey's 20 years there.

"It makes you take pride in coaching to go against one of your players," Starkey said.

"We're friends off the floor, but when you cross the lines it's competitive. And in the end, we shake hands again," Rogers said.

The Bulldogs went wire-to-wire with 6-foot-3 senior Durrell Johnson scoring 20 first-half points and Sowers returning to score eight in the third period when Martinsburg extended a 39-32 halftime margin to 58-43.

"Coach told me to step it up for tonight," said Johnson, who averages 19 points per game and ended with 26, along with 12 rebounds. "We were concerned with their size."

Miner was saddled with a technical prior to the end of the third period and was pulled from the lineup by Starkey. The Rebels got back within shouting distance with a 10-0 run, due in part to Charles Johnson's pair of 3-pointers.

Martinsburg, which shot 51 percent through three quarters, suddenly found the conversions tougher, hitting only 2 of 12 in the final eight minutes while South continued its comeback.

An eight-point run with Miner back in the lineup put the Rebels down one possession, 60-59, with 1:25 to play before Durrell Johnson hit a runner for Martinsburg and Jeff Horst (15 points) hit a free throw.

Jesse Gutekunst hit the front end of a one-and-one for the Rebels then intentionally missed the second shot, but Martinsburg grabbed the rebound and the game.

The Bulldogs started in a man defense but switched to a box-in-one in the second half with Sowers working on Miner, holding him to four points.

"I was surprised how tough (Sowers) was defensively," Miner said. "But, we needed to play better defense tonight."

Starkey said he needed more from his "Big Three" - Miner, Gene Johnson and Gutekunst - with Johnson playing while ill.

"We don't practice well and we're just not a good team yet," Starkey said. "But I do feel well how this team played with Miner not in the lineup."

Gene Johnson led South with 19 points and Charles Johnson contributed 11 and Gutekunst 10.

"(Durrell) Johnson's got a lot of skills and he came to play tonight and Sowers is so strong and quick," Rogers said. "South is a very good team. We didn't have the killer instinct."

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