Hope Spriggs eternal for Spartans

December 22, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

CLEAR SPRING - On Monday, McConnellsburg's Matt Spriggs raised eyebrows with his passing, setting a school record with 20 assists in the Spartans' victory over Cumberland Valley Christian.

On Tuesday against Clear Spring's tightly packed 2-3 zone defense, Spriggs went against his natural instincts and led the way with his shooting.

Spriggs made four of McConnellsburg's 10 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 24 points as the Spartans raced out to more than a 30-point lead and cruised home with a 74-59 victory.


"I didn't really feel good about it at all the whole game," said Spriggs, who prefers getting teammates open looks more than taking his own. "Coach (Denny Pollock) told me to keep shooting, and they kept playing off me expecting the pass."

Spriggs was to the Spartans (6-3) what Magic Johnson once was to the Los Angeles Lakers. He played point guard on offense, then used his size and long arms to anchor the center of McConnellsburg's own 2-3 zone defense.

"He can do it all," Pollock said. "He's as versatile as can be. He can be a shooter, an assist man, a rebounder. He usually gets things started for us."

The Blazers (0-4) effectively took away Spartans big man Dave Thomas with their zone, but it left the perimeter wide open. Spartans guards Josh Lowery (18 points), Russell Glazier (12) and Neil Peck (10) took advantage, each draining two 3-pointers.

"I've got a good mix of 3-point shooters, and they can stretch a defense out," Pollock said. "We have four or five guys who are pretty consistent. I don't hold the strings on anybody as far as the shooters go. They can take the shots if they're open."

Spriggs and Lowery teamed up for eight points each in a 16-3 run that gave McConnellsburg a 56-25 lead halfway through the third quarter. Each player hit two 3s in the run.

Clear Spring committed eight turnovers in the first quarter and fell behind 18-12, as the Spartans - who showed flashes of both a half-court and full-court trap - capitalized with easy baskets. Spriggs had seven points and Lowery five in the quarter.

"The half-court trap and full-court trap, it gets us going," Pollock said. "With both teams in a zone, the game really bogged down, and we had to pick up the pace a little bit and get a few quick baskets."

"We're trying to figure out who can handle the pressure, and so far we haven't figured it out," Blazers coach Don Harnish said. "We're young and we'll learn as the season goes."

Scott Keeney made five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points for Clear Spring, which managed to play McConnellburg even on the glass and had several second-chance opportunities only to find the iron unkind.

"We had good shots, we just weren't knocking them down," Harnish said. "I don't know how many layups we missed, how many 6-to-8-footers didn't go."

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