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Panthers trip NG, head west

March 05, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - In order to have any shot at reaching the state tournament, Hancock figured it would have to go through Allegany to continue toward its goal.

The Panthers will get a chance to put a check next to that achievement tonight at 6 when they take on Allegany in the Maryland Class 1A West West sectional final at Fort Hill High School.

Hancock (20-3) avoided the disaster of blowing a 15-point lead in the third quarter to hold for a thrilling 80-76 overtime win against Northern Garrett (14-10) on Friday night in front of a 10-pound crowd jammed into a 5-pound gym. Allegany (22-1) reached tonight's game with a 69-55 win over Southern Garrett.

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"All you hear is Allegany, Allegany," said Hancock coach Jeff Spielman. "We knew we would have to be here at this point facing them to get where we want. We know they are a good team. What we do, we'll see."

Northern Garrett led only once in the game, 4-2. The Huskies managed ties at 4-4 and, most importantly, 70-70, to force overtime after rallying from a 49-34 deficit at the 5:45 mark of the third quarter.

Blake Walker knotted the game for Northern with 25 seconds remaining, but Hancock surged immediately into the lead in overtime, pushing the ball inside to 6-foot-7 Jeff Wilson for a bucket.

After a Huskies misfire, Alex Younker hit a three from the top of the key for a 75-70 lead with 2:45 to play.

Andy Morris capped the extra period with four free throws.

"It will be a challenge playing (Allegany)," said Younker, who led the Panthers with 18 points. "I think we relaxed some in the second half and we didn't attack, but we rose to the occasion in overtime."

Hancock paralyzed Northern with a great first half, hitting 17 of 31 from the floor which included 7 of 11 from beyond the arc. The Panthers were guilty of only two turnovers and had good ball movement in and out.

Morris excited the crowd with three 3-pointers in the first half on the way to a 16-point performance, all of the rainbow variety from nearly 22 feet and the Panthers were in total control at the half, 44-31, even though Willison had three personal fouls.

"We've been waiting for Andy to shoot more of those," said Jeff Spielman of Morris, normally the first player off the Hancock bench.

"I get in there to help give (Brad Spielman, Younkers) those guys a rest," Morris said. "When I get in, I try to make something happen. Usually I don't have as much arc like tonight, the shot just felt good."

Hancock defeated Northern Garrett twice during the regular season by identical situations pumping up big, early leads only to squander them, including one that led to a 69-64 overtime win at home on Feb. 15.

Similarities abounded as Hancock went into its "four score" offense but the quick-handed Huskies forced several turnovers they converted to get within 59-57 with 4:15 in regulation.

Hancock began to recognize the Northern pressure and did a better job attacking the basket with Brad Spielman hitting two buckets and Willison getting three points before Northern tied the game in regulation.

"(Northern) had an answer after the first half, but we stepped up," said Jeff Spielman. "We were aggressive in the first half, but once we started to hold the ball we lost being aggressive."

The Panthers hit 29 of 55 for the game and buried 10 3s in 16 efforts while Northern ended 26 of 54 and collected nine 3s.

Brad Spielman added 16 points to the Hancock cause and Willison had 13. Chris Speichler led Northern with 19 points, Eric Johnson tallied 17 and 6-4 freshman Kory Gibson added 15.

"We played hard, but did some stupid things," said Northern coach Paul Edwards, who did offer any excuse from losing to the weather-related layoff.

"At least in the morning, the boys can sleep in a little and get some rest for Allegany," said Jeff Spielman.

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