Scallion's Stallions

Thirty years later,'73-'74 Rebels still remain team to beat

Thirty years later,'73-'74 Rebels still remain team to beat

March 07, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

At times, there are events that just seem meant to be.

Those that are taken for granted are placed in the "inevitable" category.

Other instances earn an "etched in stone" label. They are a matter of destiny.

Thirty years ago, the South Hagerstown boys basketball team was inevitably destined for greatness. And now, 30 years later, the 1973-74 Rebels seem inevitably destined for local immortality.

Those Rebels - 15 players led by coach Nick Scallion - are nine days shy of celebrating three decades on the top of this area's basketball world. On March 16, 1974, South Hagerstown won the school's first boys basketball state championship. On that day, the Rebels defeated Bethesda-Chevy Chase 83-70 at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House to win the Class A crown.


The championship completed the journey of a core of athletes who had played together for most of their childhood and were highly successful at every athletic turn. These Rebels hit the pinnacle by going undefeated through 25 games. They did it with the instilled qualities of talent, discipline, preparation and teamwork.

And now, 30 years later, they are still the only South boys basketball team to win the state title. They are the last team to go undefeated. And they are the last Washington County boys public school team to claim a state basketball championship.

"My whole childhood, it was my dream to be in and win the state title with these guys," said Jim Banks, South's 6-foot-5 starting forward. "It would have been devastating if we had got to the end and lost. I don't think about being undefeated, but if we didn't win the state title, we wouldn't have been fulfilled."

These Rebels had a cause. South's seven seniors compiled a 66-3 record in the three years they played as a unit, including undefeated records as freshmen and seniors.

And for those who love irony, the team's seven seniors were born in 1957 - the same year South High opened its doors.

"We did what no one expected. Words can't describe what we did. It gets to feel better every year," said Mike Brashears, South's highly recruited 6-foot guard. "The pressure of playing for the title and being undefeated was because we expected a lot of ourselves ... but Coach (Scallion) expected more."

Scallion's expectations were simple. He realized destiny doesn't come knocking too many times in a lifetime.

"Anything you do and do well, there is a satisfaction. Winning feels good," the coach said. "I would say that was a very important time in our lives. It was one of the greatest things. As a coach, you never know that it could happen to you. To get a bunch like that that has honor, pride, loyalty and togetherness is something. It doesn't happen often.

"Not many coaches and players get down there on that court. So when you do, you want the trophy."

Maybe, it was all meant to be.

Sum of all parts

It's been two generations since South rose to the top of Maryland's basketball heap.

To today's players, the '73-74 Rebels are nothing but folklore ... ancient history. David Miner, Jesse Gutekunst and Gene Johnson - three stars on this year's team - were born more than a decade after Brashears, Jones and Banks were playing.

Today, the team of destiny is nothing more than a trophy. Thirty years ago, the former got what the latter is striving for today - a state title.

"It was our goal to get to College Park," Brashears said. "We had a bad taste in our mouth after getting beat by Fort Hill the year before in the districts. The seniors who left before us never got the chance to (play at Cole Field House)."

The Rebels exacted their revenge from Fort Hill in the districts by beating the Sentinels for the third - and most important - time of the season. They easily disposed of Thomas Johnson to win the Class A District I title for the right to go to College Park.

South began to make believers of the eastern half of the state with an 86-70 victory over an Edgewood team led by 6-5 junior named Dudley Bradley, who eventually played at North Carolina before a nine-year career in the NBA. The Rebels took a 10-point lead in the first quarter, Brashears scored 31 points and South never looked back.

Everything South had worked for was on the line the next day against Bethesda-Chevy Chase. Despite the magnitude of the game, it was just another day for the Rebels. They were drilled and prepared overnight to get the elusive trophy.

South went to work on B-CC. Brashears scored 30 points to become the first South player to score more than 1,000 career points to pace the 13-point victory. Norm Kelly, a 6-7 center who transferred to South before the season, added 21 points and joined Brashears with more than 500 points for the season. Brashears, who was being heavily recruited by Maryland, won tournament MVP honors despite only earning second-team honors on the All-State team.

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