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Panthers' guards cool off Blazers

December 07, 2004|by BILL STERNER/Staff Correspondent

HANCOCK - Opening games are usually eyesores for coaches and almost never make appealing highlight reels or recruiting tapes.

But Hancock basketball coach Jeff Spielman most likely enjoyed what he saw in his team's season opener against county-rival Clear Spring.

The Panthers' experienced guards set a grinding, workmanlike pace early before switching to a more up-tempo style Monday to lift Hancock 73-31 victory over a young Clear Spring team.

Junior forward Dylan Shives led the Panthers with a game-high 20 points, set up mostly by the superior guard play of seniors Dustin Jenkins, Andy Morris and Alex Younker.

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"Those guys were really smooth tonight," Shives said. "I didn't expect things to go so well, but I'm happy they did."

And things did go well for the Panthers right from the start.

Clear Spring opened the game in a box-and-one defense that the Panthers solved by the second quarter. Hancock reeled off an 18-2 run over a five-minute span to take a 32-8 lead with three minutes remaining in the half.

Shives, who scored 9 points in the quarter, teamed up with senior forward Brad Spielman to pace the Panthers to a 39-13 lead at intermission. Spielman and Shives continually raced down the floor and through the paint for open looks that just piled points on the Blazers.

Spielman finished with 17 points.

"Things happened so fast out there that we just never really caught our breath," Clear Spring coach Don Harnish said. "We had trouble handling the guards and inside, they are pretty dominant."

Hancock held a 2-1 rebounding advantage, highlighted by the play of 6-foot-7 center Jeff Willison. Willison punctuated his 12-point effort with a rim-shaking slam in the third quarter that put Hancock up, 47-21.

"This was a good effort for us and a great way to open the season," Jeff Spielman said. "I think our inside people can see how the guards make this offense go. We benefited from their excellent play tonight."

But as well as the Panthers played, there was still some liability stemming from the huge early lead.

"Really, things happened so quickly that we are still an unknown quantity," Spielman said. "It's hard to determine where we really are because getting that lead forced Clear Spring to play differently."

But for Harnish, what he saw Monday was enough.

"Hancock is a good team. ... Pretty complete in their play," Harnish said. "But I know we are better than what we showed tonight. We will be better in our next one."

Hancock had three starters in double figures, while R.J. Foltz led the Blazers with eight points.

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