Talk about having an ace up your sleeve. Gerald Moore and Jimmy Meade were packing a royal flush.
And everyone in the Anne Arundel Community College gymnasium knew it.
The two South coaches gambled by keeping their starters on the bench for the entire third quarter of Saturday's Capital-Gazette Newspapers/Representative Tom McMillen Senior All-Star Basketball Classic.
Annapolis' Dennis Edwards cashed in on the strategy. The 6-foot-5 guard exploded for half of his 20 points in the final quarter to leadthe South to a 90-84 victory and earn Most Valuable Player honors.
Meade's Ron Hubbard had 20 points and four rebounds as North's MVP.
Hubbard's layup off a pass from Northeast guard Steve Strauss (eight points) gave the North its first lead, 75-74, with just over fiveminutes remaining.
But the South ran off the next eight points, including four from Edwards, to reclaim the lead for good.
"The coaches wanted to give us a rest so we would be fresh for the fourth quarter, and it worked," said Edwards, who added three rebounds and one block.
Southern guard Vince Barnett scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half, when the South built leads of 23-7 and 39-21.
Not that North coach Brad Wilson was concerned about the possibility of ablowout.
"I told them to go out and have fun and don't worry about it," he said. "There was no pressure on them. Just relax and get after it. And they didn't quit."
The North's C.J. Prince (North County) and Brian King (Chesapeake) had 15 and 13 points, respectively, to keep the South from pulling away.
King had a sensational third quarter, with nine points, five rebounds and a steal.
"If you want to be an ego coach, you could say, 'I wish we had blown them out,' " Moore said. "But if you want to be the professional teacher and coach, I'm glad it was a game like that, because everybody got a chance toplay, it was exciting and it was a close game. The kids gave the fans what they wanted."
A crowd of about 500 watched the South race out to a 10-1 lead on two baskets from Barnett and one each from BorisBeck (Broadneck), Edwards and Gerard Hyman (Annapolis).
The Northscored the next six points, but guard Delmore Howard (Annapolis) hita three-pointer to ignite a 13-0 South run.
Howard finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
Any effort the North made to rightitself after the slow start was undermined by poor free-throw shooting.
"That was the ballgame," Wilson said, noting his team's 10-for-32 showing from the line.
"I know at one time in the third quarter we had missed 17. That's probably the game right there. Otherwise,I thought we played them fairly even."
The North drew within two points, 85-83, on a Prince follow in the final minute, but Edwards scored on a runner in the lane and Beck (nine points, two blocks) sank a free throw with 28 seconds left.
Hubbard nearly delivered a North victory with 10 fourth-quarter points.
"Hubbard's the unsung hero in the county to me," Moore said. "He's strong, he's quick, he works hard, and when he's ready to play, there aren't too many people whocan stop him."
The 6-foot-4 forward is the third Meade player to be named MVP for the North, following Corey Wallace in 1989 and Ray Osborne in 1990.
Edwards was the second straight Annapolis player to win MVP honors for the South.