They took turns cutting the net until forward Wardell Chambers stoodwith the frayed prize hanging from his neck.
The Anne Arundel Community College men's basketball team had just completed an undefeated home season, running its record in the cozy Arnold gymnasium to 12-0 with a 128-94 romp over Montgomery-Takoma Park Saturday afternoon.
They were ready for a brief, exuberant victory celebration.
But with two road games remaining, not to mention the Region XX Tournament, Pioneers coach Mark Amatucci wouldn't share in the revelry. He didn't even stay for the shearing of the last strand of twine.
Instead, Amatucci walked across the floor and into his tiny office in thefar corner of the gym.
"We've had a lot of nice accomplishments as the year's gone on, and this is another one, being undefeated at home," he said. "The next goal is to win one more game, and then we'll worry about the next obstacle, which would be the region tournament."
Anne Arundel, winner of 12 straight, closes the regular season with visits to Montgomery-Germantown Feb. 13 and Frederick Community College Feb. 18. A victory over either would clinch a first-place finish in the Maryland JuCo Conference.
Until then, Amatucci will keep his emotions in check. But as Chambers explained, achieving perfection at home -- and the strong desire to avenge last month's 22-point loss to Takoma Park -- were cause for celebration.
"Everybody was fired up," he said. "We wanted to go undefeated at home, especially because we lost to these guys before. This was the first time I've ever beaten them in my two years here, so that was especially nice."
"We corrected our mistakes from what we did last time," said forward James Sharps, who scored 19 points off the bench. "We were prepared for this. We all did our jobs."
Sharps' teammate, guard Ronnie Wade, did his job with fervor, hitting seven three-point shots and finishing with 38 points.
Wade scored 24 points in the first half as Anne Arundel built a 70-42 lead.
"I was looking for revenge because they beat us so bad the first time and I had fouled out 15 minutes into the second half," he said. "This was something I had been waiting for."
Wade was unstoppable through the first 20 minutes, popping in long-range jumpers with uncanny accuracy. And on the rare occasion that a defender disrupted the launching of his jumper, he lowered his head and aggressively drove the lane.
"I felt it in the first half, from the first shot," he said. "During the drills, I wasn't really confident that I was going to come out and score 25 or 26 points in one half. But with the 'up' tempo, the shots were there."
The fast pace didn't suit Takoma Park, which repeatedly walked theball up the floor during its 87-65 win Jan. 9.
"I don't have the guards to play with (Amatucci's) guards," Falcons coach Russ Alexander said. "They shot the ball well. They were unconscious out there."
Or perhaps they were acutely conscious of just how poorly they had played in the first meeting.
"This is the only team all year long that really took us out of our game and frustrated us," Amatucci said.
Chambers (26 points) said, "It was intense, and we executed muchbetter this time. Much better."
And right from the start.
Wade scored 12 points in the first five minutes as Anne Arundel took a 17-6 lead. Takoma Park's Al Welch rallied his team to within three points, 21-18, before Wade struck again with a three-pointer, and Chambers hit from the baseline.
A 15-2 run midway through the half enabled Anne Arundel to pull away, 42-24.
"Right from the start, I think we set the tone of how we wanted to play," Amatucci said.
The Pioneers shot 52.5 percent (52 of 99) from the floor in improving to 23-4 overall and 17-1 in the conference.
Takoma Park (13-8 overall and 12-4 in the conference) was led by Welch, a monstrous presence inside, who finished with 40 points and 24 rebounds.
Afterward, Amatucci said, "You try and stay with what your philosophy was in the beginning of the year. We emphasized that a week and a half ago by saying, 'Look, if you go out and play hard and execute and do what I ask you to do, win or lose, I'm going to be happy.' "
He felt great joy Saturday, but not enough to take hold of the scissors and begin cutting.