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Leopards fit to be Tyler-ed

January 10, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - They packed their 2-3 zone defense in against him. They double-teamed him, triple-teamed him and even once quadruple-teamed him.

But try as they might - and mightily they tried - the Smithsburg Leopards couldn't stop Alex Tyler.

Clear Spring's 6-foot-6 center had his way in and around the lane Friday night, jump shooting and dunking his way to 28 points while adding seven rebounds and five blocks as the No. 10 Blazers rebounded from their first loss of the season with an impressive 62-42 victory over Smithsburg for their first Monocacy Valley Athletic League Antietam victory.

"On the chalkboard, our No. 1 key was to stop Tyler," Smithsburg coach Eric Gerber said. "You saw what happens when you don't. It's tough to stop Tyler. He's good."

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Tyler, a junior who was averaging 23 points per game coming in, controlled the game from the opening tip. Tied at 2-2, he scored the game's next four baskets, showcasing a soft touch from out to 12 feet and also the strength to gain and take advantage of position on the block.

"Things are starting to go well for me," said Tyler, who averaged 12 points per game as a sophomore. "I'm getting good looks, my teammates are getting me the ball and I'm hitting the shots."

Tyler had 15 points at halftime as the Blazers (7-1, 1-1) took a 30-19 lead, then helped put the game away in a 20-6 third-quarter run in which he scored seven points.

His exclamation point - a powerful, two-handed dunk - drew "oohs" and "ahhs" from both teams' fans, and when he exited for good with four minutes left, the Blazers held a 57-29 lead.

"Our team hasn't developed enough to put him in the right positions all the time, and we got him in trouble some," Clear Spring coach Don Harnish said. "But (Smithsburg) didn't have the height to guard him. ... We're happy to get our first league win tonight."

Without their own presense inside, Smithsburg (2-8, 0-2) had trouble on both ends of the court. The Leopards made seven 3-pointers for half of their offensive total, but when the shots didn't fall, they were left scrambling.

"We are very much an outside-oriented team, and we need to develop some interior options," Gerber said. "Just shooting up jump shots makes it difficult.

"We just want to improve as the year goes on. That has to be our focus, trying to get better."

Cody Beard had 10 points - nine coming on a trio of 3-pointers - and five assists for the Blazers. Drew Crawford had 14 points as the only player in double figures for the Leopards.

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