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Rebels' 'brotherhood' made it easy being green

March 09, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Talk. Talk. Talk.

The more we do it, the cheaper it becomes.

Talking, writing and now broadcasting are the classic forms of communication. Sometimes the words get lost in the translation.

That's why it is tough to find a term to describe the 1973-74 South Hagerstown basketball team and the events which made the 15 players and one coach local immortals.

One week from now, those 16 individuals will be celebrating the time they banded together as one - as a team - to make local sporting history. The Rebels won South Hagerstown's one and only state basketball title and finished 25-0 in the process.

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Now, 30 years later, it is the last team to finish the season undefeated and the last Washington County boys team to lay claim to a state crown.

It used to be that certain words separated special events from the ordinary.

"Cool" started out as something with a comfortable temperature. Now, it labels practically anything favorable. I'm guilty of this overuse.

Then, there is "great." That used to mean anything remarkable that separated something or someone from the rest. Now, every sporting event - professional all the way down to recreational games - have any number of instances which earn the moniker.

Great has become pretty good.

And now comes the term "brother." That word started out as a male blood relative from the same mother or a member of a large group with the same cause.

Unfortunately, brother has been overused to the point where its thrown around casually and, it usually seems, by individuals who use it to play on emotions to stay away from trouble.

The members of the South Hagerstown team - even 30 years after the fact - were as close to being brothers from different mothers as there ever has been. And this is long before the term had been diluted by overuse in the mainstream.

Those Rebels were born as strangers, found each other as friends, embraced and acccepted each others' strengths to form a bond and tied it all together with a trust and a "brotherly" love and understanding that made them "cool" and "great," even to this day.

"Everyone had a vital part," said Tom Alexander, a reserve guard on that team. "We were a tight-knit group. We were close and proud of each other."

That is a rare mixture. It's becoming increasingly difficult to assemble a group of players who will check their egos at their lockers and play for the common good of the team.

It's the good teams that are "cool" with it, but the "great" ones live by it. Those that accept that code without reservations usually earn a new title.

It's called "champions."

The Rebels' 1974 title has the aura of being one of destiny. It seemed meant to be, as they became nearly unstoppable.

But the title is a culmination of years of work before that one moment of personal greatness.

Let's not try to figure out how they all were born in the same time period.

Then each player had to find their talents and then find the rest of the group.

After fate played its hand, this group had to learn to combine their talents and use them to an advantage to become successful.

Three members of the Rebels played on Hagerstown's 1868 Little League team, which played in the World Series. They all seemed to come together as the All-Star group in junior football and basketball.

They were all grounded in good foundations to build what became an ultimate dream.

"Our parents all gave us our foundation to be successful," said Stan Jones, the team's starting 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. They gave us all our discipline and taught us about camaraderie. Life has been good to me and it all starter there and then."

Then in high school, the Rebels met coach Nick Scallion, who was a master of taking the things that were good and making them better.

He continued the course in discipline and teamwork and added a strictness and a preparation that solidified the Rebels' persona as champions. It got to the point that the team believed so deeply they were champions, nothing less was acceptable.

But in it all, it was that basic bond of trust and understanding strengthened by that special love that only the best of friends have for each other that defined the Rebels' destiny.

Certain players grabbed all the headlines and scored all the points. Others realized they were the supporting cast and embraced what they did to make the entire group winners.

No one person won because the Rebels knew they all were winners.

"We did it all together," said Mike Brashears, the shooting guard. "During practice I would be on the first team wearing white and Tom and the other guys were wearing green. We were competing against each other. That made it more special on game days because we were all out there wearing the same color."

To this day, that belief stays with the 1973-74 Rebels. They all stay in touch and remember their accomplishment like it was yesterday.

They truly embody the term "brother."

After all, they all bleed green.

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