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Campers bring Panthers' playoff run to end

March 06, 2005|by BILL STERNER/Staff Correspondent

CUMBERLAND, Md. - The smile Hancock basketball coach Jeff Spielman flashed at the more than 100 well-wishers standing and clapping in the stands at Fort Hill High School belied the true nature of how he felt as he walked slowly off the floor.

Only moments before, the Allegany Campers used a second-half surge to nudge Spielman's Panthers out of the playoffs in a thrilling yet gutwrenching 67-58 loss for the Panthers in the Maryland Class 1A West Region West Sectional final.

Spielman could only dream of what might have been had some things gone Hancock's way.

"We are disappointed and the kids played their hearts out," Spielman said. "I don't think we were hurt by any calls as much as we were hurt by what wasn't called, especially in the third quarter."

Spielman was referring to a torrid third quarter where Allegany used a frenetic pace - pushing the basketball up and down the floor - to establish a 48-44 lead by the start of the last quarter. The Campers went to the line a dozen times in that stretch, while Hancock (20-4) couldn't get on track.

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Allegany shot 23 free throws to Hancock's seven.

"In a tight game, we need to shoot free throws," Spielman said. "That is a huge part of our game. We are quick, we get fouled and we go to the line. ... I've got to hand it to (Allegany). Given the opportunity, they made their shots."

The game was an entertaining one as the lead changed hands no less than a dozen times as the region's two winningest teams did battle.

The Campers needed a little more than two quarters to get their bearings as the Panthers challenged Allegany's Donavin Vinson and Scott Scalletta inside. Hancock's quick guard penetration and frequent feeds to 6-foot-7 Jeff Willison in the paint troubled Allegany throughout most of the first half.

But Vinson got the Campers going in the right direction, getting multiple putbacks underneath as the Campers crept out to a narrow lead in the third quarter.

Hancock made a run in the fourth quarter, drawing to within 57-56 with 2:30 left, but Allegany's John Ponde drained a 3-pointer and Vinson went to the line, hitting both ends of a 1-and-1 to give the Campers some control at 65-58 with less than 40 seconds left.

"We just couldn't make that last run at them," Spielman said. "We missed a couple in close and they were able to score in transition."

Even the disappointment of being eliminated couldn't put a damper on what the Panthers achieved.

"You look at the state classification and see where we are the smallest school in 1A by over 120 students," Spielman said. "I think we made a more than respectable accounting of ourselves. I know in my 34 years at Hancock, this is the best team I have seen."

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