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Hubs defend lead against Titans' charge

December 23, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Coming down to the final seconds, the North Hagerstown boys basketball team had Tuscarora right where the Hubs wanted it.

Along the baseline, looking for a tying basket. It couldn't have been any better for the Hubs.

"Anytime you force the ball to the sideline, it's great," North coach Tim McNamee said. "The sideline and the baseline ... they are like having another defensive player."

North outnumbered Tuscarora, 6-to-5, with 5 seconds remaining by pressuring Titans' guard Hamilton Woolfolk along the baseline and forcing an errant pass Thursday to all but seal the Hubs' 63-60 victory.

The Hubs weren't out of the woods yet, but the play stunted Tuscarora's comeback from an 11-point deficit in the final 5 minutes. North's Tyrell Wilson hit 1 of 2 foul shots and Danny Reed missed a 25-foot, 3-point try at the buzzer off a play in the final 3.9 seconds to make the victory official.

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It was a game which was won off North's quickness and defense. The Hubs found ways to keep the bigger, more physical Titans away from the inside game for most of the night, capped by two huge defensive plays in the final 22 seconds.

"You got to give our kids credit," McNamee said. "They didn't get discouraged and hung in there, and then, they got those two big defensive stops at the end."

North built a 34-26 halftime lead and led 50-39 going into the fourth quarter while weathering Tuscarora's concerted effort to pound the ball inside in the second half. The Titans turned to 6-foot-4 Mitchell Weedon - who scored six of his game-high 23 in the final five minutes - to mount a 15-4 rally to knot the game at 58-58 with 1:44 remaining. Woolfolk forged the tie with his third 3 of the game.

"We changed our press and we wanted to make them rush more," said Tuscarora coach Dan Wagner said. "Our turnovers got us. We just can't simulate that kind of speed in practice. They forced us into making mistakes."

With the tie in hand, the Titans put North's Jarell Rodriguez on the spot to win the game. Tuscarora fouled Rodriguez four straight times, and he hit 4 of 6 foul shots to move North out to the 62-60 lead with 42.8 seconds remaining.

"J-Rod and (Dee) Mency ... down the stretch, those are the guys we want with the ball at the line at the end of the game," McNamee said.

North protected the lead with the two defensive stops. The first was a steal by Fred Kreiger off a baseline pass intended for Weedon with 23.4 seconds remaining.

Rodriguez missed a pair of foul shots with 22.7 remaining, allowing Tuscarora another chance to steal the game. The Titans worked their offense and got the ball to Woolfolk at the top of the key for a look for a go-ahead 3. Woolfolk pulled down the shot and dribbled to the baseline, which turned into North's second big stop.

"We got the look we wanted at the top of the key," Wagner said. "I thought he had the shot, but he dribbled to the corner and then the ball was stolen."

Wilson hit a free throw for the three-point lead, but missed the second shot to allow Tuscarora to call a timeout before the final play. The Titans pushed it up and fired over to Reed for the final miss off the right wing.

North's defense walled Tuscarora away from the paint in the first half and used the speed advantage to pull away in the second quarter. Tyrone Wheeler scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half as the Hubs owned the eight-point lead at the intermission.

Mency led North with 19 points, while Woolfolk finished with 13 for Tuscarora.

"We are so small, our defense sets up our offense," McNamee said. "We were aggressive early and we switched our defenses a lot. When we stopped playing defense, we had trouble scoring. But you know, with a team like that, somewhere along the line cat-and-mouse stuff is going to end and you are going to have to play them straight up."

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