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Rebels top Knights in West semis

March 05, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

On many nights this season, David Miner has put the South Hagerstown boys basketball team on his back and hauled the Rebels to victory.

On Thursday night - with Miner having a rare off-night - his teammates put him on their backs and carried South into the Maryland Class 2A West championship game.

Gene Johnson scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the first half and Jesse Gutekunst had 12 of his 16 points in the second half as the Rebels' frontcourt proved too much for Middletown to overcome in South's 58-45 semifinal win.

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Facing the pressure of a playoff game with a county public schools scoring record within reach, Miner had his worst scoring game of the season, managing only 11 points on 5-for-19 shooting. But after a 1-for-11 first half, he changed gears and found his teammates, and South started pulling away.

"I think we were all a little bit nervous coming into the game, it being a semifinal," Miner said. "It wasn't one of our best games, but we came away with a victory.

"(The record) was on my mind a little bit, but the team comes first with me. No matter what, the team comes first."

Johnson scored eight of the Rebels' first 10 points, doing it with offensive rebounds and perimeter jumpers. He started the second quarter with a tough shot inside, then nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key as South took a 19-7 lead.

"Gene was hot tonight," Miner said. "Gene was hitting big shots all game. ... I consider him my little brother. When I'm off, he's on and it really works well."

"He kept us there in the first half," Rebels coach Bob Starkey said. "Gene is a pleasant kid, he listens and tries what you tell him to do, and he keeps getting better. He's not as tough as he needs to be, but he's getting there."

Middletown hung tough in the first half, with Kyle Lear scoring eight of his 12 points in the half. Joe Keimig clamped down on Miner, holding him to three points in the first 16 minutes as the Knights went into the break down, 25-18.

"We just played straight man-to-man like we always have," Knights coach Jon Jarrett said. "Joe (Keimig) did an excellent job guarding (Miner) tonight."

"We kind of underestimated them in the beginning," Johnson said, "but at haftime we regrouped and said, 'Let's get this.'"

South opened the third quarter on a 14-8 run, with Miner dishing out four assists in the spurt. The Rebels choked Middletown off the boards, outrebounding the Knights 23-9 in the second half and 42-22 overall, and forced the Knights into launching 31 shots from 3-point range.

Middletown made nine of them - four by Zach Miss, who led the Knights with 14 points - but couldn't overcome the lack of an inside game.

"We hit the boards hard and our defense forced them to shoot all from the outside and they rushed their shots," Starkey said.

"I was shocked to look at the scorebook and see we had zero foul shots," Jarrett said. "I don't know how that could happen. So we had to shoot from the outside, and we didn't shoot well. ... If we make five or six more of those from the outside, we're right in the game."

South will travel to Walkersville to face the Lions for the region championship Saturday at 7 p.m. Walkersville defeated Liberty 72-46 in Thursday's other 2A West semifinal.

The teams played once before this season, on Dec. 22, and the Rebels needed every single one of Miner's 40 points in a double-overtime 84-78 victory. Johnson and Gutekunst each scored 16 in that game.

"We can't go in overconfident," Miner said. "We just have to play our game and hopefully come out on top and go on to a state championship."

"(Walkersville's) playing really well right now, and we'll have to have an outstanding game to get by them," Starkey said. "I heard they wanted another shot at us. Well now, they'll get another shot."

John Keimig had eight points in his final game in a Middletown uniform.

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