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A win for the ages

March 07, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Sometimes, 15 minutes of fame can last a lifetime.

In an era when many spend an entire existence trying to be more than just another face in the crowd, a group of 15 men owns the distinction of being the best high school basketball team Washington County had to offer over the last three decades.

They are the players and coach of the 1973-74 South Hagerstown boys basketball team, which will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of completing the last undefeated season and last Maryland state basketball title captured by a county boys team.

The accomplishment has long since been pushed into its pigeon hole of sports history - a virtual footnote in Maryland tournament annals. But to this band of Rebels, it still is one of the first defining moments of their lives.

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"It's an incredible memory," said Jim Banks, a 6-foot-5 starting forward who is now a physician in Roanoke, Va. "To be able to go down there and win the games solidly - there was never a doubt. We were in control from start to finish.

"We showed everyone we could do it. It's a great childhood memory. It's still exciting to talk about it to someone even now."

It has become a moment when time stood still. Many of the Rebels remember that day like it was yesterday. Just mention that Class A title and the stories and memories flow like a river.

"It was fantastic. You always want to talk about it ... it's awesome," said Nick Scallion, who molded, guided and coached the Rebels to a 25-0 record and the title. "It was the wildest dream to be fulfilled."

The 74-year-old retired teacher still lives in Hagerstown and vividly remembers the two days in mid-March when the Rebels turned Maryland state basketball's collective head.

South opened with an 86-70 victory over Edgewood in the Class A state semifinals on March 15 at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House. Edgewood featured 6-foot-5 junior Dudley Bradley, who eventually played at North Carolina and in the NBA.

The Rebels completed their date with destiny the next day with an 83-70 victory over Bethesda-Chevy Chase when leading scorer Mike Brashears scored 30 points to become South Hagerstown's first career 1,000-point scorer.

"My whole childhood, it was my dream to be in and win the state title with these guys," Banks said. "I don't think about being undefeated, but if we didn't win the state title, we wouldn't have been fulfilled. It would have been a huge disappointment."

The title ended an incredible run for six South seniors - Stan Jones, Tom Alexander, Jim Fraley, Ron Miller, Banks and Brashears - who had undefeated seasons as freshmen and seniors. Norm Kelly, a 6-foot-7 center who was a key to the title run, moved to Hagerstown before the senior season.

The state title was the culmination of a whirlwind year for South, which won the championship of the highly competitive Tri-State League. The Rebels also dressed in the Maryland Terrapins' locker room during the state tournament.

It was the time of their lives.

"(The state tournament) was exciting. It was an experience," said Alexander, a Hagerstown police officer. "In my office right now, I have four college degrees hanging, but in the middle of it, I have a picture of the state championship banner. The degrees are all huge, but that banner, that is an important moment in my life."

On the surface, the title is an accomplishment enjoyed by few. In fact, no other Washington County team has won a state title in basketball since.

"I would say that was a very important time in our lives," Scallion said. "It's not that we wouldn't have been a success if it never happened, but you want it to. Not many coaches and players get down there on that court. So when you do, you want the trophy. It would be my greatest feeling as a coach. It will never leave me."

And time only enhances the memories.

"It's kind of like that old T-shirt that says 'The older I get, the better I was,'" said Brashears, a 6-foot guard who now is the chairman of the board and CEO of Brethren Mutual Insurance in Hagerstown.

"I think it means more now for guys like Tom and me because we both have boys who play sports. We can relive it. We worked hard for years. We had a great opportunity to win the state title. We had the chance to be the first ones to win the state title for South Hagerstown. And now, 30 years later, we are still the only ones."

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