After Miner festivities, Rebels set for major stage

March 08, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

The fans were in a festive mood outside Walkersville High School on Saturday.

With the doors opening one hour before the 7 p.m. tipoff for the South Hagerstown-Walkersville Class 2A West boys basketball championship game, they started lining up as early as 4 p.m.

Tickets, sold only at the door, would be at a premium as the two MVAL teams battled for a spot in the state tournament at the University of Maryland Comcast Center.

Only 900 tickets were being sold and soon after the doors opened, Walkersville's gym became a beehive of activity as fans scurried to the best possible seat locations. It did not take long for ticket sales to be cut off and twice announcements were made for fans to "crunch together and get to know thy neighbor."


Both sides were equally represented with fan bases, which were treated to a 50-point and record-setting performance by South's David Miner, the new Washington County Public Schools career scoring king with 1,800 points.

When 32 minutes had concluded with strategy, sweat and hearts being left on the hardwood, South had thrashed Walkersville, 91-59, to earn its fifth trip to the state tournament in the last seven years.

South Hagerstown (23-2) will battle Lansdowne (21-4) Friday at 9 p.m. after Friendly (23-2) and J.M. Bennett (25-1) open the 2A semis at 7 p.m. The winners will return Saturday at 6 p.m.

Lansdowne reached the Final Four with a 71-62 win over Edmondson and will be making its first appearance since 1970. They are led by 6-foot-5 Barry Cornish, 6-6 Chris Gilliam and guards Greg Brown and John Jarboe. Cornish had 27 in Saturday's region victory. Defending 2A champion J.M. Bennett defeated Aberdeen 59-52 and Friendly walloped Fairmont Heights, 87-67.

Miner and 6-8 Jesse Gutekunst will be among the South seniors making a third trip to the state tournament and no doubt would like to bring back a championship to Washington County that hasn't been hoisted since South's 1973-74 unbeaten contingent.

This season is different as the Rebels moved up to 2A and they'll get a new look at some tough opposition.

"I think a lot of us really didn't know what to expect last season," said Gutekunst, who had 10 points and a team-leading 14 rebounds against Walkersville. "I think we are a better team than last year. Our defense has made us better, also."

Gene Johnson, South's 6-6 inside-outside swingman, who transferred from Broadfording Christian and has a season-high 39-point effort against Brunswick to his credit, will get his first taste of state competition after he contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds Saturday. He was plagued with a taped injured finger on his right hand after an injury Thursday.

"I thought I did good for it hurting," Johnson said. "Just had to suck it up. ... We let it all hang out. ... We owe it to David. He's led us this far and he'll lead us to the promised land."

Opposing teams have very few answers for Miner and their best bet is to catch him on an off night.

Even then, the Rebels have Johnson and Gutekunst to rely on and coach Bob Starkey also has found out over the last half of the season that he has some other players, who are no longer relegated to wood duty on the bench.

"Josh (Bussard), Charlie (Johnson) and Wayne (Young) have worked hard in practice, gotten some confidence and they have been getting better," Starkey said.

Young chipped in with 10 points against Walkersville, while Bussard and Johnson continued their work, Bussard grabbing seven rebounds and Johnson working the offense from his point-guard spot.

"I was one of those on the wood," said Young, who has seen increasing playing time in the last month. "Coach told me in practice I had to straighten to be a contributor. That's what I've tried to do."

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