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Knights rise to Hubs' challenge

March 03, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

North Hagerstown's boys basketball team had the opportunity to go quietly against the Knights on Wednesday and didn't.

But when the Hubs had the opportunity to pull out a victory over Middletown in the Maryland Class 2A West semifinals, they didn't do that, either.

The up-and-down Hubs started down against the Knights, rose up to make a game of it, but fell short in the end in a 59-56 loss that ended North's season.

"I can't fault our effort," Hubs coach Tim McNamee said. "We were in trouble a couple of times with a chance to go down double figures, but we hung in there. When we got it close, we didn't have great shot selection. We didn't get it in the right kid's hands when we needed to."

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North (19-5) trailed by seven at halftime - and it could easily have been more after the Hubs committed 10 first-quarter turnovers and made just 8 of 22 shots (36 percent) in the first half - but a quick 7-0 run to start the second half, capped by Tyrell Wilson's unlikely 3-pointer, all but guaranteed a close game to the final buzzer.

Hubs point guard Jarell Rodriguez swished three 3s later in the third quarter, but Middletown's shooters got even hotter. Joe Keimig made his only two 3s of the night in the frame and Zach Miss and Paul Crone added their own 3s as the Knights (19-4) carried a six-point edge into the fourth.

"I felt I got us started when I hit my first 3," Keimig said. "I didn't hit anything in the first half. Then I hit another 3 and everybody got their confidence up."

With Middletown attempting to run out the clock with the four-corners offense, North cut the lead to four twice on Quielan Gantt's 3 with 4 minutes left and Dee Mency's drive to make it 54-50 with 1:40 to play.

After Keimig missed the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity with 53.5 seconds left, Gantt's jumper from the top of the key cut the lead to two with 35.7 to play.

The Hubs fouled Keimig five seconds later, but this time he made both shots for a 56-52 advantage.

Mency answered with another drive for a bucket with 25 seconds left. North spent the next 11 seconds going for the steal before fouling Miss, who made 1 of 2 to give the Knights a 57-54 lead with 13.9 left.

After a timeout - the Hubs' last - Mency drove to the hoop again for a layup with eight seconds left to make it 57-56.

North again went for a steal on the inbounds, but Middletown got the ball to reserve guard Chris Riggin, who was fouled with 3.2 seconds left and made both shots.

With no timeouts left, North inbounded to Chris Grove, who had to settle for a running 40-footer which clanged high off the glass at the buzzer.

"We were going to take the first look we had (on the second-to-last possession). We're not real good at holding the ball," McNamee said. "If we got the open 3, yeah, if we get a drive, take it and foul right away. Dee got the drive and we tried to get a steal there. It's a tough situation. If you talk to 10 coaches, all 10 probably do it differently. ... The only thing you can do is put yourself in a position to win the game, and we did that."

Forward Mike Holda scored nine of his 15 points in the first half to lead Middletown, while Crone had 12 and Keimig 10. Gantt finished with 18 for the Hubs, while Rodriguez had 14 and Mency 11.

Middletown will travel to Walkersville for the regional final Friday at 7, with a trip to the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland-College Park on the line.

"It will be a tough game," Knights coach Jon Jarrett said. "A great game, great atmosphere. All I hope for is that our kids rise up to the challenge."

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