Boys Basketball: Leopards set for bright lights of Comcast Center

March 08, 2012|By TIM KOELBLE |

The Comcast Center will be up close and personal Friday for the Smithsburg boys basketball team. For most of the players, this is their maiden voyage inside the 18,000-seat building.

The purple and Vegas gold-clad Leopards will battle New Town in the Maryland Class 1A state semifinals at 5 p.m., the first trip to the final four for the school since 1988, when head coach Eric Gerber played for Smithsburg.

“I’ve never been there so I expect it to be loud with lots of fans,” said senior Trent Springs, second on the team in scoring with a 15.8 average. “As a kid you dream of playing in a big place like this.”

Point guard Tyson Pierre has never been there.

“You see it on TV and it’s a big stadium,” he said. “To me it’s like no other I will have been in. This was our goal in the summer. I think people didn’t take us too serious.”

Senior Jordan Fortson got to play on the floor during the summer, realizing there is an adjustment to be made playing on a 94-foot floor.

“You’ve got to get used to the background for shooting in warmups and you know you’re going to do more running up and down the floor,” said Fortson.

After Friday, all the Leopards can say they’ve had the opportunity to play at Comcast.

Whether there is a return engagement to Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship game remains to be seen.

A victory today would send the Leopards into the final against the winner of Friday’s other semifinal between Dunbar and Pocomoke at 3 p.m.

In the Smithsburg preseason camp there were high expectations on the season’s outcome.

“We had high expectations,” said Springs. “We worked hard during the summer and we knew we had something special. We developed chemistry and that’s been the key to playing well.”

Throughout most of the season, the Leopards have been undersized, but that’s not been a deterrent.

Brad Spickler stands 6-foot-1 and, after that, Springs and Fortson are the only regulars who barely reach 6 feet.

“We are used to playing the taller boys, so you just keep pushing the basketball,” said Springs. “You get a body on body and play hard.”

New Town (19-6) sports a 6-4 player and three at 6-3 among its regulars. Offense has not been a problem for the Titans, averaging 69 points a game.

“We know they are bigger than us, but we’ll try to use our quickness,” said Fortson.

Smithsburg averages 64 points on offense and both teams allow 54 points a game.

The Leopards (20-5) are on an eight-game winning streak and have not lost to a 1A school this season.

Gerber was a senior on the 1988 squad that lost 65-61 in the 1A championship game to Milford Mill.

“We beat unbeaten Mount Savage in the region final and then Easton in the state semis,” said Gerber. “We should have beaten Milford Mill.”

At one point, Gerber held the record for most 3-pointers in one state tournament game with six.

“That’s been long gone,” he joked.

Gerber said he has emphasized to his team, “As a player, go out and enjoy the moment.”

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