Anne Arundel Community College men's basketball coach Mark Amatucci looked physically drained Saturday as he walked across the gymnasium floor to his office.
"It's been a long afternoon," he muttered, gazing up at the scoreboard that read: Guest 102, Home 78.
Once in his office, Amatucci plopped into his chair, propped his feet firmly on his desk and fielded questions that he appeared almostrelieved finally to get a chance to hear.
When your team is 5-0 the line of questioning is upbeat, but on this afternoon, the Pioneershad lost a game to Montgomery College-Takoma Park that all but decided by halftime.
"We knew today was going to be a good test for us because we hadn't really played a quality team up to this point," said Amatucci, whose team fell to 5-1 overall, 4-1 in the league. "We'vebeen able to make a lot of mistakes in our earlier games, and it really hadn't shown up in the box score."
Amatucci's assistant, Mark Healy, was less forgiving.
"We continually told them to this pointin time that you're going to face a good team that won't let you getaway with the things the lesser teams let you get away with," said Healy. "They saw today what can happen when they're not ready to play against a good team. This isn't a two- or three-point loss. This is agood team that kicked our a--."
The punishment started early for the shivering cold Pioneers. Montgomery College came out running and before the hosts could say uncle, the Falcons were out front, 20-8. The remaining 15 minutes and 32 seconds of the half weren't much better for the Pioneers, who jogged sluggishly to the locker room at the half trailing 57-40.
Montgomery College (4-2 overall, 4-1 league) opened the second half with three unanswered buckets that upped the margin to 23 points, 63-40. The Pioneers seemed to be waiting for theirsecond wind, but it just wasn't in the forecast. The Falcons, led byTy Freeman (24 points) and Reggie Blano (19), continued to widen themargin by beating the hosts down the floor.
"We have a lot of young people who still don't understand that you've got to play on the defensive end," said Amatucci, who got a team-high 19 points from Keith Thompson and 18 from Ray Osborne. "We know people can score, and weknow that we can put 100 points on the board. It's the other end that they're not tuned in to. We got our butts kicked down the floor andthat's something we have to improve."
Takoma Park coach Russ Alexander wasn't expecting such a blowout, but figured his team would "bein it" if it could score 100 points.
"Anne Arundel is a quick team and we knew they like to run up and down the court, so we worked ongetting our defense down the court in a hurry," he said. "I thought it would be a closer game, but they didn't shoot very well."
The missed shots Amatucci can swallow. It's the lackluster effort on defense that the third-year coach concedes to having trouble digesting.
"We know what we have to work on now, it's a matter of (the players)seeing it," said Amatucci. "I can talk about it day in and day out, but until they actually see what they don't do, they won't learn. We have to make the point that if you do not want to work at your defensive game, you will sit, and if you sulk, you'll sit more.
"I don'tlike to lose. I hate to lose, but lessons have to be learned, and either they're going to learn them or they won't play."