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Gaels use outside shooting to take Aussies out back

January 15, 2008|By TIM KOELBLE

The Melbourne, Australia Juniors were given the key to the City of Hagerstown in pre-game ceremonies, but St. Maria Goretti was not about to let them unlock the door to a victory on Monday night.

John Duhring hit five 3-pointers as St. Maria Goretti became inhospitable hosts to their mates from Down Under with a 58-36 victory at the Gael Center.

Melbourne arrived in Hagerstown on Sunday from Baltimore via Chicago and Seattle after playing seven games in Washington state, losing six. Today, the Tigers play at Montrose Christian and at St. John's Catholic Prep on Wednesday. The team will visit Washington before heading back to Melbourne.

"The boys raised the money themselves to make this trip," said coach Andrew Gaze. "Many of the kids' parents can afford a trip like this, too. They are the best from six club teams in our division.

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"Many of them are away from Australia for the first time. We saw some snow in Washington. And we've got the trip to D.C. and that's just as important."

Gaze, who is in his second year as coach, said this team plays between 50 and 60 games a year between the club season and high school season.

"Basketball is up there behind Australian rules football and crickett," said Gaze of the sport's popularity. "We get good TV coverage. FOX has two games weekly across the country."

The coach himself is also a Melbourne icon.

He played 1988-89 season as a senior at Seton Hall. The Pirates lost to Michigan in overtime in the NCAA national championship game.

He has played in five Summer Olympics, leading Australia to a fourth-place finish in the 1996 Games. In the 2000 Sydney Games, he was selected as Australia's flag-bearer.

He is also considered Australia's greatest player from the National Basketball League, averaging 30.9 points over a 22-year span before retiring in 2005. He had tryouts with San Antonio and Seattle in the NBA and played seven games with the Washington Bullets in 1993-94.

Melbourne's Dan Fisher, a 6-foot-7 mainstay for the Australians, was stoked about his travels and experiences.

"We've gone to Disneyland and San Diego and going through Washington, seeing the differences in the Tri-Cities (Spokane, Richland, Seattle). You see very good things and very different things," said Fisher, who led the Tigers with 14 points and has hopes of coming to the U.S. to play college hoops.

"We don't get to learn much about old American history in school, mostly from the 20th century," he said. "We've learned plenty about the wars."

Melbourne jumped to a quick 4-0 lead on two buckets by Fisher before Goretti quickly knotted the score on goals by Mitch Belella and David Engle. Kevin Breslin's goal at the 4:15 mark gave the Gaels (7-9) a 6-4 lead they never relinquished.

Goretti played a 3-2 zone defense, a tactic that didn't help the Tigers.

"We're a little thin with good players on the perimeter," said Gaze. "We didn't respond to their zone and (Goretti) worked hard on defense."

Duhring knocked down three 3-pointers in the quarter to help Goretti take a 19-12 lead.

"I finally got my touch back," said Duhring. "It's been gone for a couple of games."

Goretti extended its lead to 15 points at 27-12, as Melbourne struggled with only a 2-pointer by Pat Craig in the second period.

Goretti's lead finally reached 20 points at 53-33 with 4:33 remaining on a 3-pointer by Belella.

"We've been working on this new zone (3-2) and used it tonight," said Goretti coach Cokey Robertson. "We got some early rhythm and (John) got loose tonight. I know (Melbourne) probably had some weary legs."

However, Gaze did not offer fatigue as an excuse.

"We might be a little, but that's no excuse," he said. "We just didn't have anyone to attack from the perimeter."

Duhring led Goretti with 19 points and Belella added 11. Michael Fenwick-Nevin backed Fisher with 10 points.

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