COLLEGE PARK -- All season long Catonsville's strength has been, well, that it just doesn't seem to have a glaring weakness. Last night's 83-61 win over defending champion Oakland Mills in the state Class 3A semifinals did nothing to cloud that perception.
"Our strength has been we shoot well and pass well and play defense real well," said Comets coach Art Gamzon. "Tonight we illustrated that."
In fact, finding a single deciding factor in last night's victory at Cole Field House is impossible. The Comets (25-0) got contributions from everywhere.
The frontcourt? Marlon Barbour, the 6-foot-3 senior center, had 18 points, three blocks and 15 rebounds, seven of them offensive. "Marlon Barbour I call my warrior," said Gamzon. "He plays with as much intensity as anyone I've ever coached. Against this club he was absolutely crucial. They have so much size with Marc Terry [6-5, 220 pounds] and Gregg Washington [6-4, 200]. I was really concerned by our ability to neutralize them."
The backcourt? Point guard David Clark chipped in 10 rebounds, four of them offensive, to go with 17 points, eight assists and two steals. And shooting guard Louis Smith (15 points), just back from a broken ankle, hit seven of eight first-quarter foul shots to keep the Comets close while they adjusted to shooting in spacious Cole.
"Louis penetrates so much that he keeps us on the line," Gamzon said. And since Catonsville shot 22-for-27 (82 percent) at the foul line, that seems a good place for them to be.
The bench? Junior Rob Reich, who started during Smith's absence, hit four of six three-point attempts and scored 20, a nice recovery from the regional final against Elkton when he was shut out.
"I played my worst game of the season against Elkton -- scoring, dribbling, defense, everything," Reich said. "I'm very happy about this game."
Reich, a junior who played JV last year, has given the Comets a boost all season. "I've always been a shooter," he said. "This summer I played in Project Survival. Gerard Garlic, who played on Catonsville's 1983 team, taught me how to play defense. I figured I'd be the sixth man this year. But then Louis broke his ankle in the first quarter of a game early this year. I came off the bench and scored 21 with four three-pointers. I started until the regional finals. Then Louis came back and he deserves to start. He's a great player."
That's a lot of ammunition to be fired at a team, but Oakland Mills coach Dave Appleby, whose team finished 17-8, thought it was the Scorpions' own misfires (23-for-73 from the field, 32 percent) that did them in. "They hit some tough shots," he said. "We didn't hit ours . . . They're better than I thought. Clark was better than I thought. He handled the ball and made some shots. You've got to give Catonsville credit. They're a good team."
Tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Cole, the Comets play for the state championship against DuVal (20-3), a 73-59 winner over Northern-Calvert.
"Since I'm a senior, this could've been my last game," said Clark. "Now I get to play one more for a state championship. It's been a dream all my life."