Who has been No. 4 Southern's toughest opponent this season?
According to Southern coach Meredith Smith, it's not Dunbar, Annapolis, Cardinal Gibbons, Coolidge or Dunbar of Washington, the teams that beat the Bulldogs (14-4).
Smith says his team's toughest opponent has been officials.
"We win on the floor, but we can't beat the whistle," Smith said after last Tuesday's 75-57 win over Lake Clifton. "The only team team that beat us [in which] the difference wasn't at the free-throw line was Dunbar. The rest of the teams we beat playing basketball, [but] they just shot excellent free throws because they had a lot more opportunities than us."
Smith has been upset since his team lost in overtime to Annapolis on Feb. 8, 92-87, when the Panthers attempted 44 free throws and the Bulldogs 14. In his first opportunity to talk to a Baltimore reporter since the Annapolis game, Smith criticized officials for nearly 10 minutes about what he considers bias against his team.
Smith cited the Annapolis game and a 63-60 loss to Cardinal Gibbons on Dec. 21 when Gibbons attempted 25 free throws and Southern five, as prime examples of biased officiating, but he says his team seems to be at a disadvantage in every game.
Smith said that biased officiating also has hurt the development of his players.
"John Salley [a senior center] can't make a three-foot shot [because he is being pushed]. I think that has hampered that boy's career. I've seen him get elbows in the face and the chest. If he was on Dunbar's team, he would be a tremendous player -- not because he'd be a different player, but because that wouldn't be allowed to happen."
Most of Southern's games are officiated by members of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials Board No. 290, which handles Maryland Scholastic Association games. The Annapolis game was officiated by members of Board No. 23, which works games throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area.
Tom McCann, the commissioner of Board No. 290, refused to comment about Smith's charges but said his group is not biased for or against any team.
"We have had no problems with our officials being for or against any school, not Southern or any other school," he said.
The Baltimore area will have a representative in the March 27 Capital Classic for the first time since 1987, when St. Maria Goretti's Rodney Monroe played on the Capital team.
St. Frances 6-foot-6 senior center Devin Gray, who led his team to the Catholic League regular-season title, has been chosen as an at-large pick for the Capital team, which will play a team of U.S. All-Stars at the Capital Centre.
Monroe was a local favorite because his Hagerstown school played in the Baltimore Catholic League and won the Metro Classic in 1986 and '87 with Monroe leading the way.
Also, St. Frances coach William Wells says that Maryland, Wake Forest, Richmond and Towson State lead the list of schools favored by Gray, the area's most highly recruited player.
Mount St. Joseph sported more than a record after winning its 16th consecutive Maryland Scholastic Association wrestling tournament Saturday at Gilman School. All 13 of the Gaels wrestlers had crew cuts -- and so did coach Paul Triplett.
This is how it started: St. Joe junior 135-pounder Chad Votta had long hair at the beginning of the season, but a number of his matches were stopped because his hair was getting caught in his head gear.
Some critics suggested that Votta was stalling. Triplett advised Votta to get a haircut, and Votta responded with a crew cut. Triplett was so amused that he got one. Then, every wrestler on the team got the new look.
"I didn't think it would end up like this," said Triplett, laughing. "Everyone just wanted to join in, I guess."
Records, streaks, milestones: Gilman's Jamie Edwards set an MSA diving record with a score of 310 in Gilman's 73-20 dual-meet victory over McDonogh on Thursday. The previous record was 287, set by Loyola's John Sharkey in 1982. . . . Both Cardinal Gibbons' Casey Musick and Quintin Moody each recently scored his 1,000th career point.