The seventh-place ranking of the Anne Arundel Community College men's basketball team in a national poll is a mixed blessing, said second-year Coach Mark Amatucci.
"It's a reward for the kids, but it puts a bit more pressure on them," Amatucci said before Saturday afternoon's home game against league rival Frederick Community College.
"They have to learn how to accept the responsibility of being a good team and they have to come out and play like they're a good team every day."
Anne Arundel did just that Saturday, showcasing a new lineup and burying talented but undermanned Frederick, 124-88.
Amatucci sent all 11 available Pioneers into the fray, making him the envy of Cougars coach Jim Weddle. Weddle only had seven players becauseof injuries and academic problems.
"They're still a quality team and (Weddle) does a quality job," Amatucci said. "They beat us twice last year (when) we only had seven or eight people, so I do know whatit means to run out of gas."
Though not far removed, those days should seem like ancient history to Amatucci, whose team is 11-3 overall, 8-0 in the Maryland JuCo Conference and rated seventh in the National Junior College Athletic Association poll. The Pioneers were unranked last season, despite winning 23 games.
"You like your team to behave and respond the way the head coach does, and I look at (the ranking) as a nice reward for our kids," Amatucci said. "I think it's nice to let people in the area know we have a quality team down here.But I'm not one to get all bent out of shape over rankings. I've been up and down, so hey, it's just part of the game."
So is running the fast break, something Anne Arundel does with a passion. And the addition of Jay Mouzon, who was ineligible for the first semester, makes doing so that much easier.
Amatucci didn't waste any time inserting Mouzon at point guard and returning 6-foot-4 Wardell Chambers tothe front line.
A Meade graduate, Mouzon tallied six points -- all in the second half -- but his importance to the program over the final 16 regular-season games won't be measured in scoring alone.
"He knows I'm not looking for him to score," Amatucci said. "I'm looking for him to run the offense and get us back in the right defense and give us some quickness up front to run with Ronnie (Wade) and Raymond (Osborne) and Tommy Rose. He's a good point guard, a solid point guard."
Mouzon's presence took on greater meaning when Chambers, who scored 15 points, sprained his left ankle early in the second half and left the game. Amatucci hopes to have him back for Wednesday's game at Montgomery-Takoma Park.
Anne Arundel displayed ample firepower without Chambers. Wade, an Annapolis graduate, posted a game-high 31 points to lead five Pioneers in double figures. Osborne had 20 points, Rose 15 and Butch Williams 10.
"The kids started looking around when (Chambers) came out of the game," Amatucci said. "But we have some depth, obviously. We can make some moves."
The Frederick coach was limited in his maneuvering once Buster Jones (grades) and Rodney Dennis (injured wrist) were forced to miss Saturday's game. With another teammate also in street clothes and three others fouling out inthe second half, the Cougars were left at a 5-on-4 disadvantage overthe final six minutes.
"Half our offense is sitting out," said Weddle, who will be without his top scorer and second-leading rebounderuntil Jones changes an incomplete grade in one course.
"I knew itwas going to be tough. I was pleased with the effort."
Despite being short-handed, Frederick still came out running in pursuit of its 10th victory in 15 games.
"We heard they had been scoring a lot and that their thing was to run," Rose said. "We were practicing all week how to defend it, so we knew they were going to come out and run."
"The guy's a winner, and he believes in his philosophy," Amatucci said of Weddle. "That's what they live and die with."
Frederick also was 7-0 in league play, and the game initially figured to be close throughout. Instead, the rapid pace eventually wore down the Cougars, even after they switched to a less-taxing zone defense.
"If we had all our strengths it would have been a hell of a game," Weddle said.
The zone "kept us where we wanted to be," he added, "but when you have seven kids and a couple get in foul trouble. . . . We're just not deep."
By contrast, Anne Arundel became deeper with the additions of Mouzon and 6-foot-5 forward Mike Davis, a 1987 graduate of Archbishop Spalding who came off the bench Saturday and contributed seven points and three rebounds.
Williams grabbed 12 rebounds, JamesSharps had 11 and Osborne and Rose 10 each as the Pioneers enjoyed a60-38 edge on the boards.
Frederick's Derek Shackleford scored 28points before fouling out with 7:02 left. Craig Collins added 23 points. Both had seven rebounds.
"We beat a good team," Amatucci said. "I'm very proud and happy about that. That's a good win for us."
Anne Arundel looks to avenge a Dec. 3 loss to Essex Community College at 6 p.m. tonight.