Rebels' winning ways were born, nurtured, realized

March 07, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

Championship teams are nothing more than glorified construction projects.

Professional and college coaches alike put on the hard hats while trying to lay a foundation of a winner before building up their teams to a contending level. Then it is a matter of how they top it off.

Thirty years ago in Hagerstown, the South Hagerstown High School boys basketball team topped everything off with the first - and last - state title in school history. They were also the last boys public school team to bring home the state trophy, and they did it in an unprecedented and never-matched undefeated season.

Truth be told, the foundation of South Hagerstown's run to the state title on March 16, 1974, was made of wooden baby building blocks.


It wasn't created, it was born.

"We had been together for a long time," said Mike Brashears, the team's star scoring guard. "We were all together at E. Russell Hicks (Middle School). Our whole group was pretty confident. It started out with junior football. Then a lot of us were on the team that reached the Little League World Series before we got to high school."

Some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. The '73-74 South Hagerstown basketball team was born - and raised - with a golden trophy in their hands.

More than a 'Miracle'

In athletics, teams always look for good fortune. Winning teams always claim luck is on their side. Ah, but championship teams ... they are carried by something stronger.

Miracles tend to be fashioned for teams needing to beat the odds.

Miracles are trumped when destiny makes an appearance.

"The other day, I took my son to see "Miracle," said Chuck Hipp, a 6-foot-5 starting forward for the '73-'74 Rebels. "It reminded me of what Coach (Nick) Scallion did with us. I sat there and watched everything and all the philosophy Coach (Herb) Brooks tried to teach the hockey team and it brought back memories."

Practices were intense, almost resembling a Marine Corps boot camp. The competition was spirited as all 15 South players worked tirelessly to reach Scallion's uncompromising standard of excellence. And the games were a breeze, thanks to the coach's emphasis on preparation and physical fitness.

"There were a lot of times we beat teams in the first five minutes of the game," Hipp said.

And the rewards are now a part of a lifetime of memories.

"Gosh, I remember how hard we worked and how satisfying it all was," Hipp said. "Then when we reached the pinnacle, there was the amazing outpouring from the town. I remember the police meeting us at the Frederick County/Washington County border and giving us an escort into town."

When it came to expectations, the Rebels had a blank check.

"There was never a tradition of winning at South Hagerstown," said Jim Banks, South's starting 6-5 forward. "There wasn't any pressure. We were having fun and played so well, we never felt any pressure. We were just confident because we knew we could do it."

Born to be winners

With his first glance, Scallion knew this South Hagerstown class was one for the record books.

"The first time I saw this group of players, they were in ninth grade," Scallion said. "I could see they could play the game and they had that savvy. You could see they had a feel for the game."

Success seemed to come natural to these Rebels-to-be.

"It was a team. We had all grown up together," Banks said. "In middle school, we were on different teams, but we were all on the all-star teams together."

This group had all the makings of a local dynasty.

"It was a time when North High was having success and winning the state baseball title," said Dave Mowen, a 6-1 guard. "We all said 'That is going to be us in four years.' You just knew it. You felt it."

Brashears, Stan Jones and Tim Evans, a reserve guard, were members of the National Little League team that advanced to the World Series in Williamsport, Pa., in 1968. They finished sixth in the tournament, giving the group a taste of what was to come.

The Rebels knew how to win games. It was a foundation set early.

"Our parents all gave us our foundation to be successful," said Jones, a 6-3 point guard. "Back then, we all grew up as blue-collar families. Our parents were married couples and when we played games, they were there. Life has been good to me and it all started then and there."

The Maestro

The Rebels had all the instruments for success. Scallion helped produce the harmony.

Scallion returned to coaching in 1971 after a five-year hiatus, replacing Paul Swartz, who resigned to take a position at West Virginia University.

But Scallion brought a wealth of state tournament experience to the table. He made three previous trips to the state's Final Four, winning one title. Scallion had guided the Rebels to the 1962 and 1966 state tournaments, only to lose in the semifinals.

His championship came in 1957 at age 25 in his third year at Crisfield, a program on the Eastern Shore which he restarted with eight sophomores.

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