With Harris and Sons on the brink of winning its first Annapolis Men's Summer Basketball League title, a wild celebration was inevitable.
On most occasions, newly crowned championship teams wait until after the game to pop the corks on the champagne.
But Monday night on the sidelines of Truxtun Park's main court, Harris and Sons let loose with the bubbly with seven seconds remainingin their 53-43 triumph over defending champion F-Force.
That touched off a post-game, on-court party that included many residents of the Spa Road area from which the team originated.
Strangely enough,the man who guided this perennial underdog squad to the pinnacle of one of the most competitive summer leagues in the region, Coach Norm Johnson, stood to the side and watched most of his players share the moment with their families and friends.
"It's been a long time coming," said Johnson. "We really wanted to win this for the guys."
"The guys" were George Johnson (longtime Annapolis resident) and KevinSlade (former Morgan State football player and St. Louis football Cardinals draftee). Both men, now deceased, stood as role models for the Spa Road area and constant inspiration for the Magic Johnson Division champions.
Johnson said, "My first year coaching these guys, wewent 3-9. But these last couple of years we've improved a lot. Theseguys have worked so hard for this, and they really deserve it."
The electricity was clearly evident at the start of the game, as tournament Most Valuable Player David Chapman (team-high 14 points) drilled a three-pointer just seconds after the opening tip-off. Ex-University of Richmond guard Rodney Rice's acrobatic layup for the F-Force's first bucket drew the vocal overflow crowd immediately into the action.
Rice (game-high 16 points) almost single-handedly carried the Force during the first half, dropping in 10 points, including two NBA-range three-pointers. Anne Arundel County Sun All-County and first-team All-Metro selection Dennis Edwards (12 points) added five points during the half, while Jody Beck contributed two.
Harris and Sons, whose 10 players all saw game action (as compared to six for the losers), took a 19-17 lead at the end of the half.
Harris and Sons ledby seven, 34-27, as Chapman hit one out of two from the line. Moments after Beck (six points) hit a fadeaway bank shot to close the gap to 34-29, Chapman's spectacular block of a Ricky Somerville layup ignited his team to a 12-5 run during the middle of the second half to seal the victory.
"We beat a real good team tonight," said veteran guard Londell Owens. "Winning the league championship is old news for me. I won eight years in a row (from 1978-86) when I was playing for CLM. It's been a fun year, and I'm glad we finally won one (a championship)."
Johnson said, "I think we proved that you don't have to go all over the place and pick a team from out of town to win. We won this league with homeboys, and they just gave me their best out there. I'll tell you, it's great to beat a team like Robinwood (F-Force)."
"These past few years have been fun, but I think I'm going to endit right here tonight. Lately, I haven't been having as much fun with it as I had been, so I think it's time for me to step down and start spending more time with my wife."
Twelve-year veteran and leagueMost Valuable Player Lodie Makell chipped in seven points for the winners, while Eugene Slocum and Marvin Johnson contributed five pointseach.