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Cougars don't horse around with Trojans

March 09, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - With classic tournament victories over Martinsburg and Hedgesville, Jefferson might have left its "A" game in cold storage on Tuesday night.

However, the Cougars' "B" game was more than efficient enough to quell the efforts of gritty Hampshire 71-47 at Shepherd University's Butcher Center to gain their first berth to the West Virginia Class AAA state tournament since 1996.

"This is a great group of guys," said Jefferson coach Bob Starkey, who will lead Jefferson to states just one year after guiding South Hagerstown to Maryland's version of the tournament.

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"I thought we might have something back in the three-day camp at Shepherd in June," Starkey said. "These guys developed the desire and they were attentive to what needed to be done."

And while Starkey is a firm believer in the star system, he's got the talent to call on at any one given time.

Junior Josh Brown was only 6 of 21 shooting en route to a team-high 17 points, including eight points in a critical stretch during the second period when the Cougars pulled away from a 22-19 advantage to a 35-19 lead at halftime.

With senior Aaron Edwards sidelined with an injured toe, Starkey called on 6-foot-1 freshman Tyler Hester, who came up big with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

Coincidentally, Jefferson's inside 6-4 freshman Vance Hosby put up identical numbers.

"I said in the preseason we would go to the state," said Brown, who along with Desmond Newman sported freshly cut domes for the game. "It was spur of the moment on the way back from the mall.

"We had two tough games last week and maybe there was some overconfidence tonight," Brown said. "(Coach Starkey) got us to come and play ball every night. He earned our respect and to trust him. We've been comfortable with what he has asked us to do."

Starkey said he had no hesitation inserting Hester into the lineup, adding that Edwards should be "ready to go in a couple of days."

Despite a subpar 37-percent shooting night and 17 turnovers, the Cougars battled with Hampshire until the Trojans were guilty of four straight turnovers during 13-0 Jefferson run in the final 1:25 of the second quarter.

Jefferson had the huge Cougars' crowd roaring with its approval as it mounted a 20-point lead with 3:25 left in the third quarter on a goal by Hosby and free throw by Hester.

Already charged up with one slam dunk by Brown, the crowd came to its feet early in the final period when Brown stole the ball near midcourt and delivered a nifty behind-the-back pass into the waiting hands of a trailing Hester for a basket and 61-40 lead.

Shortly thereafter, with 3:09 to play, Hampshire coach Larry See emptied his bench, looking at a third loss to Jefferson this year.

"(Hampshire) gave us fits early, but we weren't running our offense and we slacked a little on defense," said Hester. "We just kept playing hard as a team. This feels so great as a freshman."

Senior Reggie Creamer, one of the typical players that doesn't score much but does so many other things not seen in the boxscore, was effervescent after the win.

"We came together ... It feels so great to go to states," Creamer said. "We can't rest on this. We'll go to states to win."

Anthony Lewis was Hampshire's leading scorer with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

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