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Perfect Storm cruises to 17-0

January 26, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - Mark Cubit's job description has evolved into part basketball coach, part traffic cop and part airline pilot.

The Mercersburg Academy "caretaker" just has to scratch his starters into the scorebook, navigate substitutes to the scorer's table and then kick back and put things into auto pilot.

"I don't change anything during the games," Cubit said. "(The players) tell me what to do."

Cubit had his tray table in the upright position as the No. 1 Blue Storm moved their running into high gear with dominant rebounding and precision passing in the middle quarters Wednesday to notch an easier-than-indicated 72-63 victory over short-handed No. 3 Jefferson.

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After playing to an 18-18 tie after one period, Mercersburg (17-0) found its stride with early scoring runs in the other three quarters to build a 63-38 lead.

"This group has a very high IQ," Cubit said. "They are fundamentally sound and ready to go. We rebounded and passed well, but our defense stretched it out."

And it didn't hurt the Storm to have the inside-outside punch of Alex Tyler and Colin Cubit to help stretch things out. Tyler used his physical presence and strength around the basket to either start fastbreak chances or finish off possessions with scores. He had a game-high 23 points, including three dunks.

Cubit ran the floor and was the recipient of passes to finish with 21 points, mostly on drives into the paint.

Meanwhile, Jefferson (7-4) struggled as it played without Josh Brown, who could miss two weeks with a deep thigh bruise suffered in Monday's win against Clarke County (Va.). Brown didn't dress for the game and was on crutches.

"It's hard to say what not having Josh did to us," Jefferson coach Bob Starkey said. "He's our quickest guy in the lineup, our second-leading rebounder and our leading scorer. But that's why you have a team and other guys are supposed to step up when they're needed.

"We didn't play smart and we didn't pass well and we didn't play as hard as we should have for being two guys short. Some of the guys played good defense, but we weren't able to score inside."

Jefferson found itself in trouble when center Vance Hosby was hit with three early fouls while working against Tyler. It hampered any physical play he could have had against the bigger, stronger Tyler.

After trading baskets and leads in the first quarter, Mercersburg got down to business. The Blue Storm used a 13-4 run to open the second quarter with a passing flow to keep the Cougars in chase mode.

"We knew they had floor balance," Starkey said. "That was the first thing on my list to watch for ... that we must have floor balance, too, but we didn't. To be fair to our guys, they only had one day to practice playing without Josh."

Mercersburg led 37-28 at the half and threw the Sunday punch to open the second half with an 8-0 run to build a 45-28 lead. In fact, Tyler and Colin Cubit scored 16 of Mercersburg's 18 points in the period as the Blue Storm assumed a 55-38 lead.

The Storm started the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run and then started playing prevent defense. Mark Cubit cleared the bench with the feeling that Mercersburg had scored enough to win.

Jefferson countered with six straight baskets - including five 3s - to get back within 63-55. Ryland Newman hit all three of his treys in the stretch before joining Hosby on the fouled out list.

Mercersburg protected the ball and held on for the deceiving nine-point win.

Newman led Jefferson with 15 points while Hosby had 12 before fouling out with 6:31 remaining.

"These kids are a great passing team," Mark Cubit said. "And despite all the 3s they hit in the end, our kids did a great job defending the basket. They didn't have an answer for Alex and Colin played really well."

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