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Johnson's act awards Gaels

February 22, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

It wasn't the Academy Awards, but there was some red carpet treatment Monday night at South Hagerstown.

It was a simple game of basketball marking the return of Gene Johnson to the South gym, where he was such a big part of the Rebels' success last season.

Old teammates David Miner, Josh Bussard, Charlie Johnson and others were courtside as Johnson and the rest of the St. Maria Goretti Gaels disbanded the Rebels, 55-37.

"Actually I felt very welcome," said Johnson, having to make sure he went to the proper locker before the game. "I went to the right one. I never even had seen the inside of this locker before."

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Johnson, who finished with a team-leading 14 points, received friendly applause from the South crowd and wooed the entire audience with a pair of slam dunks, the first coming late in the second quarter following a South turnover.

Andrew Chambers dribbled down the right side of the floor and connected in perfect harmony with Johnson, who was streaking down the left side, with the loop pass for the rim-rattler.

"I knew I was going to have something special tonight," Johnson said. "We just came here tonight to try and have some fun."

No. 8 Goretti (20-12) didn't immediately control the contest, trailing 6-2 early after Daviel Richardson's goal four minutes into the contest.

However, the Gaels responded with six points to end the quarter and carried the momentum past the break for another 13 points en route to a 19-0 run and 21-6 lead with 3:34 left in the half, just before Dominique Byrd hit a trey just before Johnson's first dunk.

"South played with some fire," said assistant Goretti coach Andy Reed, in control of the team with head Cokey Robertson home with the flu. "We did some things good when we started getting the inside-outside game going."

Goretti pushed its halftime lead to 33-21 on five straight points from Kevin Brashears but Richardson and Jordan Beard hit back-to-back 3s for the Rebels to suddenly bring them to within 33-27 with 3:30 left in the quarter.

From that point, Goretti went on another huge run of 16-2, led by Joey Spierenburg's five points, to reach a 49-29 lead with 4:44 to play.

"We got it back to six points but then lost some of our focus," said South coach Dennis Seman.

Coming off a big win over No. 1 Jefferson on Saturday, and with a visit earlier in the day to the Baltimore Catholic League tournament luncheon, Goretti appeared sluggish at the outset.

"It's hard to say if there was any letdown," said Reed. "Maybe some, Saturday was such a big win. But, these are high school kids and they look at the opponent's record."

Johnson added to his double-double with 10 rebounds and Chambers also doubled up with 10's in scoring and rebounding as the Gaels held a 39-31 margin on the glass.

"A lot of people thought this could be ugly, and some probably thought it would be by the end of the first quarter," said Seman. "(Goretti) had some trouble inside early, but they started making some outside shots and that made us have to defend inside.

"They're a good team, one of the best we've played all year," he said. "We worked to slow it down some, make the extra pass. We felt we had to keep them in the 50s."

Byrd paced the Rebels (5-16) with 14 points and collected eight rebounds.

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