County-soviet Games To Write History

March 08, 1991|By John Harris III | John Harris III,Staff writer

Two county high schools will become a part of scholastic basketball history, beginning tomorrow night.

The St. Mary's girls and Archbishop Spalding boys basketball teams will play teams from the Soviet Union in what will be the first high school matchup between Soviet students and American varsity squads.

St. Mary's will play host to the Soviet girls squad at 7 p.m. tomorrow, while Spalding will play host to the boys final game at 7:30 p.m. next Friday.

Pangaea Incorporated, a Bethesda-based non-profitorganization founded to bring young people together, arranged a 12-day itinerary for the Soviet teams under the direction of president Barbara Salkin.

Each player and coach on the visiting squads is assigned to a host player from Spalding or St. Mary's. Tours, parties, receptions and high school class visits are planned during their stay.

"Win or lose, this will be a great occasion," said St. Mary's girls head coach Carmine Blades. "It gives our school some publicity that we wouldn't get otherwise, and I think it's a gift to our team for having such a good season."

In addition to the Saints, the Soviet girls will play Virginia's Bishop O'Connell Sunday and will scrimmageboth the North and South County girls all-star squads next Wednesdayand Thursday. A fifth game will be played at Anne Arundel Community College next Saturday against an undetermined opponent.

"I'm very excited about this," said St. Mary's senior guard Heather Greenlee, an integral part of the 19-9 Catholic League finalists. "My brother had an exchange student here before, but he was from England, so there was no language barrier. This should be really interesting. Their language and culture seems to be so much different then ours. I'm reallylooking forward to it; I have so many questions to ask them, I just hope we don't have too much of a problem with communication.

"We haven't heard a whole lot about them, but we do know that they have one player who's 6-foot-7. I think they'll be pretty good, considering that they are an all-star team, and they come from so many different places.

"We haven't had (formal) practice since the end of the season, but most of the girls on the team play lacrosse, so we should bein pretty good shape. We also shoot around before lacrosse practice.We're looking forward to playing them, but we're really looking forward to going out after the game."

Archbishop Spalding boys coach Lee Dove, whose team finished 6-20, said, "It's an honor to be a host school for an event such as this. Being in the middle of both Baltimore and Washington, I think we really did luck out. The student body as a whole has been buzzing about it for the past week or so. It'll begood for this area, and it couldn't have come at a better time with all of the other stuff that's been going on around the world."

TheSoviets range in age from 15-17 and come from seven different metropolitan areas, including Moscow, the Ural mountain region (bordering Europe and Asia) and Siberia.

Most players speak little or no English; however,the lack of communication doesn't seem to hinder either side's enthusiasm.

"It's not too hard to communicate with them at all. We'll both have pocket dictionaries for simple words. And if he needs something to drink or eat, all he has to do is point to the refrigerator," said Spalding assistant coach Ed Bittner, host to Soviet boys head coach Vladimir Alov.

"He loves watching cartoons and basketball. He definitely understands who Larry Bird is. He heard the announcer on an NCAA basketball highlight show mention his (Bird's) name. He just sat there glued to the TV watching Bird's college highlights."

The boys team will start their five-game odyssey at 7 tonightagainst nationally ranked Dunbar of Baltimore at Morgan State University. DeMatha, a Washington-area powerhouse, will play host to a scrimmage on Tuesday afternoon. The Soviets will travel back to Spalding on Wednesday to scrimmage an all-star team made up of players from northern Anne Arundel County.

St. Mary's High will be the Soviet boys' next destination, where they will scrimmage the South County all-stars Thursday before concluding with the Spalding varsity Friday.

"When they first got here, they were in the gym just shooting around,then all of a sudden, most of them started slam-dunking. I think it was more of a psyche job than anything else," said Dove. "But I imagine that they (the Soviets) are pretty good. A lot of the students here have been kidding around with us and saying stuff like, 'if they beat Dunbar, you guys had better call it quits.' It hasn't been gettingto us, though."

Spalding team captain Bill Barth said that while his team is curious about the talent of the Soviets, it isn't about to begin pushing any panic buttons.

"If we play together as a team and play within ourselves, I think we'll be able to hang with them," said the senior guard. "Right now, we're just enjoying the whole thing. Just being a part of history is pretty impressive."

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