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Palmer nets 500th

Longtime HCC women's basketball coach gets landmark victory in win over Harford

Longtime HCC women's basketball coach gets landmark victory in win over Harford

February 01, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

HAGERSTOWN - Marlys Palmer joined the ranks of coaching royalty on Wednesday.

But before the Hagerstown Community College women's basketball coach could think about her coronation, she flashed back to a Knight who got there before her.

The 68-55 win over Harford Community College wasn't one of the easiest the 28th-year coach had along the way to the landmark 500th career victory. It took her 808 games to reach the mark on the long, yet glorious, journey.

There were some real tense moments as the Hawks struggled. So much so, it made Palmer, 60, think momentarily about Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight, who recently became the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I men's basketball.

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"I think something like this adds pressure to the situation," said Palmer, while holding a white trophy ball commemorating the moment. "I kept thinking about Bobby Knight. He kept saying there was (no added pressure) for a milestone win. Then, after his team choked the first time, he admitted there was pressure."

The Hawks felt the squeeze as each minute of the game passed. They jumped out to a 14-5 lead, but soon began to feel the jitters as Harford's deliberate play and the impending finish teamed up against the Hawks like the Doublemint Twins.

"We wanted to win ... we didn't want to mess up," said Jamie Robinson, who had 20 points and 16 rebounds in the victory. "We wanted to win for (Palmer). We wanted to win for the school. We wanted to make it special for her."

The usually demonstrative Palmer spent much of the game standing in front of her bench with her arms folded, just waiting for something to happen. It was a long wait as it took Alicia Myers' jumper and a three-point play by Sam Cain with 1:50 remaining to ice it.

While a small gathering of fans stood up and chanted "500 more, 500 more," Palmer initially greeted her newly acquired membership in the select coaching sorority with quiet hugs and handshakes and a huddle with her team. She was invited onto the floor for the trophy presentation by HCC President Guy Altieri and athletic director Robert "Bo" Myers.

"She is very special to this school," Altieri said later. "I'm trying to get her to sign on for five more years. Very few people know that she also has 769 volleyball victories, too."

As humble as Knight was before her, the Southern Fulton (Pa.) High School graduate took the scoring table microphone and thanked everyone who had a hand in her milestone. She admitted she was standing in the spotlight only because of all of the players, family, fans, administrations, students and assistant coaches she has worked with along the way.

"It was nerve-wracking," Palmer said. "Someone asked if tears would be shed and there were some. My parents were here. I didn't know they were coming and that overwhelmed me."

And despite all of the hoopla, Palmer kicked back into coaching mode, much like Knight, giving just one word to describe it all.

"Relief," she said. "We have to move on because we have so much more to do."

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