Parasiliti: Rebels, Blazers are strikingly similar in their differences

January 15, 2012|By BOB PARASILITI |
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

It takes a lot to scare the dickens out of someone.

Sporting events aren’t like exorcisms. The devil will make fans do a lot of really questionable things, but in most cases, the games aren’t all that life-changing.

That certainly goes for South Hagerstown and Clear Spring’s midseason boys basketball game on Wednesday.

On the surface, there wasn’t anything all that shocking about the Rebels’ 68-51 victory, outside of a 16-1 advantage in the second quarter.

To be truly honest, the outcome is about what most would have expected. History and reputation usually always comes into play when anticipating these games.

The game wasn’t frightening, but it was the worst of times and the best of times for these two teams. In fact, it was a Tale of Two Cities. … Or at least, the tale of the basketball teams of two cities.

OK, so the game did scare the Charles Dickens out of someone. Far be it for me to become literally literary, especially since my subscription to MAD Magazine ran out.

I’m more apt to read Rick Reilly or Mitch Albom than Dickens. The only thing the three have in common is they all have written books.

Still, the opening line of the Dickens classic kind of fits this instance. The Rebels and Blazers are the same but so different.

They match up as city vs. county, urban vs. rural and mayhem vs. control.

The teams have sociological, cultural and philosophical differences.

South is a big school in Class 3A. Clear Spring is a little giant trying to tower over Class 1A.

Their game amounts to a battle of tempo and wills.

And their strengths, weaknesses and talents are vastly different.

But while the Rebels and the Blazers are coming from opposite directions, both teams are looking to reach the same destination. They want to be teams to be reckoned with come state tournament time.

Both schools have coaches who can envision the possibilities and have taken steps to ensure the reality.

Kevin Naylor is the architect of South Hagerstown’s blueprint.

He has a team that is quick and fast (not the same thing), while being tall, lanky and athletic. It isn’t much different than countless other teams that have worn the green jerseys in the past.

The big difference is these Rebels have totally accepted Naylor’s concept. Instead of adapting tendencies that would require trading sneakers for track shoes, South plays a controlled pressure man defense to force opponents into turnovers. The true testament to quickness is the sleight of hand — stealing the ball without fouling.

That defense helps put the offense in attack mode. Yet, if the transition basket isn’t there, these Rebels didn’t force the issue on Wednesday. They pulled the ball out and set up a halfcourt offense, looking to get the ball inside to take advantage of that height, proven by the fact that 13 of South’s 16 first-half baskets came via layups.

“Fortunately this year in the league, we are a big team,” Naylor said. “We have a size advantage and had to take advantage of it. Defensive pressure has been our fashion all year and we’ll go with it until someone figures it out. The thing we have this year is that this group works really hard and they don’t cut each other any slack. I thought (Clear Spring) played really well.”

The Blazers played a lot better than the score indicated.

If the Blazers could have eliminated the second quarter, they would have had the Rebels in a two-point game. That means Clear Spring played South nearly dead even for 24 of 32 minutes.

Ryan Grabill has been put in a prospector’s role, trying to mine for Blazer gold on the court. He has taken over while trying to rebuild the program back to the level it enjoyed under former coach Mark Shives. Things change, players graduate and things happen in cycles.

The Blazers aren’t blessed with South’s physical attributes, but they do have a winner’s grit, proven by their early seven-game win streak. The trick for Clear Spring is a more controlled pace and movements which start with rebounding and end with good scoring opportunities it must capitalize on.

“We have until Feb. 25 to get things right,” Grabill said. “I don’t believe in moral victories, but we competed and played to the final horn. If we play hard every time, we will be a tough out come the playoffs.”

Different routes and different methods aside, South Hagerstown and Clear Spring must work like the dickens to get to that final destination.

Then, maybe, the Rebels and Blazers will only be talking about the best of times come March.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at

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