Game Two of the opening night doubleheader at the Beltway Classic tomorrow (8:30 p.m.) is not just another early-season tuneup. When UMBC and Towson State meet at the Towson Center in one of the semifinals, the participants' main objective will be getting a head start in the East Coast Conference.
"Look at it this way," UMBC coach Earl Hawkins said. "The winner is going to be 1-0, and lead the league for a month."
UMBC's first game ever in the conference is also the earliest ECC game ever. The next conference game will be played Jan. 3, when Drexel visits preseason favorite Delaware. In a conference where the top six teams were separated by one game last year, every game counts.
Towson State, the defending ECC champion, is playing its first game at the Towson Center since going to the NCAA tournament last March. The Tigers are 0-2 and coming off of a nightmarish first half at Maryland Monday. Coach Terry Truax is still searching for the right player combinations, but said there is no time to waste.
"The last three years, it seems like UMBC has been able to make our games bigger than I was able to," Truax said, even though the Tigers have won three of their five games with UMBC in that span. "It meant more to them. We have to make this one count."
In the 6:30 p.m. semifinal tomorrow, Loyola will try to break a nine-game losing streak against Mount St. Mary's.
Tickets for the Beltway Classic are $5 for reserved seats, $4 for general admission and $2 for students, and are available at the four participating schools. Tickets for Towson State's Dec. 20 game against Syracuse at the Hershey Arena are also on sale at the Towson Center. They are $15 and $10.
* The Coppin State women enjoyed their visit to Loyola so much last weekend they're going to go do it again.
Coach Doug Robertson's Eagles were the top team at the Big Four Tournament, beating UMBC and Towson State. Laura Medley, a 6-foot-2 junior college transfer from Essex, had 35 points and 13 rebounds in the two games, and junior guard Bess Simpson was also on the all-tournament team.
The 6-year-old Coppin State program can continue toward its first winning season ever at the Loyola Greyhound Tournament. The first-round pairings tomorrow at Reitz Arena have Coppin State meeting Brooklyn at 6 p.m., and Loyola meeting St. Francis, N.Y., at 8.
The winners meet Saturday at 3 p.m., the losers at 1.
* Morgan State's James Dozier, a defensive end from Randallstown, has been named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Dozier, a 6-3, 240-pound senior, led the MEAC in sacks with 13 this fall and was credited with 36 unassisted tackles and 34 assists. He blocked seven kicks and recovered six fumbles. With their only victory coming against Cheyney State, a winless Division II team, the Golden Bears were regarded as the nation's worst Division I-AA team, but Dozier deserves recognition.
Morgan State punter Michael Andrews, a freshman, made the All-MEAC second team.
At the opposite end of the I-AA spectrum, some local products have helped William & Mary move into the NCAA quarterfinals. Ray Kingsfield, a senior wide receiver who went to South River High, has 40 catches for 504 yards and five touchdowns. After a year at the Naval Academy, he went to Williamsburg originally as a quarterback. Adrian Rich, a junior out of Loyola High, will get his 11th start at rover back Saturday at Central Florida. He's made 28 first hits and 28 assists.
* Richmond's Amy Mallon, a junior forward from Mount Hebron, was MVP in the Downeast Classic in Bangor, Maine, last weekend, getting 31 points and 18 rebounds in wins over New Orleans and Maine.
A few weeks earlier, Mallon took time out to help the Spiders' cross country team. In her first race ever, she was the first Richmond finisher at the Colonial Athletic Association championships, placing 15th overall.
* Washington College, third in the NCAA Division III basketball tournament a year ago, got its first victory of the season last night, beating St. Mary's, 78-70. The Shoremen (1-3) have their most important early-season test Saturday when they travel to Widener. They are rivals in the MAC Southeast Section, where Johns Hopkins is the favorite.