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South rises to win

January 31, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

It's not unusual for Jesse Gutekunst to stand head and shoulders above the rest.

At 6-foot-8, the South Hagerstown center easily is one of the tallest players in the MVAL Antietam Conference. On Friday, he played like it.

Gutekunst scored 19 points, pulled down 22 rebounds and pulled the trigger on the Rebels' high-low interior offense to lead No. 2 South to a rousing 83-63 victory over No. 4 North Hagerstown in the first installment of the 2004 city showdowns.

"He's the backbone of our defense and of our team," Rebels coach Bob Starkey said. "He's a stable commodity. He's money in the bank. Is that enough superlatives?"

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One would think most of those descriptions would be saved for guard David Miner, who is the area's leading scorer and had 35 points, but on Friday, it was time to look up to Gutekunst - like most people do.

Gutekunst's form allowed South (11-2, 6-0) to extend its defense and cut down on North's outside shooting while forcing the Hubs to alter shots when they did venture inside. The Hubs played at a disadvantage after losing starting point guard Matt Armstrong, who was declared academically ineligible before the game.

Offensively, Gutekunst not only controlled the glass, but got 6-7 Gene Johnson involved in the game by dumping passes from the high post at the foul line down to the block for easy layups.

"Height is tough to beat," North coach Tim McNamee said. "Even in the zone, it's tough to stop. We have to get some turnovers at the top of the key to stop it and we got some early. Their rebounding, especially on the offensive boards, killed us. His size alters shots."

South's "Twin Tower" connection paired up for two baskets to open the fourth quarter as the Rebels started to turn their 57-52 lead after three quarters into a runaway. The Gutekunst-to-Johnson connection upped the South advantage to 62-52 and was instrumental in a 22-4 run to put away the game.

"Usually it's David's (Miner's) game ... I even say it," Gutekunst said. "Today, I guess it was mine. I thought it would be in gym today. My legs were loose and when we warmed up, I felt real good. It was just my game today ... I don't know."

The inside play opened the door for a mad rush by Miner to close out the victory. The guard scored 13 of his game-high total in the fourth quarter, 10 coming on breakaway layups. North was able to hold him in check until it became showtime.

Miner upped his career scoring total to 1,352 points, 132 short of South's all-time mark set by Scott Kidd in 1986-88.

"I think we did all right against him defensively," McNamee said. "We didn't do a good job rebounding and it opened things up."

North (9-4, 4-1) started out strongly, as Bernard Harris hit two of his four 3s and six of his 31 points to give the Hubs the early 6-2 lead. Miner hit three breaks and Gutekunst and Johnson made early inside statements to give the Rebels a 10-0 run and a 12-6 lead.

It became a tug-of-war the rest of the way until South pulled away in the fourth quarter.

"Those two (high-low) plays to start the fourth quarter broke their backs," Starkey said. "We got those two horses and tonight we hit the high post. Even in the zone, it's tough to stop those two big guys."

Johnson finished with 19 points to give the Rebels 38 on the interior to balance Miner's outing. Quielan Gantt had 15 points and Marshall Branch added 13 for North. Harris and Branch had 10 rebounds each.

"This was a good win for us," Starkey said. "But we are better than that. (North) is a little wounded right now (with the loss of Armstrong), but they will come back and be tougher the next time we face them."

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