The No. 2 Southern Bulldogs sent a message to other Maryland Scholastic Association foes, the national pollsters and, more directly, No. 15 Calvert Hall last night in their season opener.
The message -- Southern deserves to be ranked among the nation's elite.
With an 83-47 thrashing of the host Cardinals, considered to be in the upper-echelon of the MSA A conference, their message came through, loud and clear.
"We wanted to prove to everybody that we belong in the national poll," said forward Kwame Evans, who led all scorers with 21 points. "We think we have the same caliber program as Dunbar, and we think we should be recognized for it."
They went a long way in proving that point with a strong showing against the top-ranked Poets in a pre-season scrimmage. Last night, however, it was all Southern.
The Bulldogs used their height advantage and a relentless pressure defense to open a 44-15 lead by the half and coasted the rest of the way.
Their starting five, including 6-foot-8 Abdul Brown, 6-6 forwards Kwame Evans and Derrick Watkins and 6-5 guard Kevin Simpson, scored almost at will against the Calvert Hall defense.
For most of the game, Southern had a height advantage at every position. and it exploited the advantage, lobbing the ball inside to Watkins or Brown. Southern's height also gave it a big edge on the boards, where it often got at least two and as many as four offensive rebounds on a possession.
Then there was the defense. The Bulldogs blocked 13 Calvert Hall shots and stole the ball 18 times. They rarely allowed the Cardinals to set the offense.
"There's not much you can do against them except try to stick to your game plan," said Calvert Hall coach Joe Baker, whose team fell to 3-1. "We tried to stay in a half-court offense, but their defense was just too good. They're a very good team."
But southern coach Meredith Smith was less.He said that on a scale of one to 10,his team's performance merited a seven.
" A lot of times when you have the big physical advantage,your execution suffers," he said." That's not to say we didn't play hard.It's just that every coach wants to see perfect execution each game."
In a third quarter that saw the Bulldogs get outscored 23-17,Southern was less than perfect.Calvert Hall used good ball movement to find the open shot.and for the first time in the game,the Cardinals scored from the outside
Smith knows his team will have to play better against the more powerful competition to make the national ranking,but he said Southern will just take things one step at a time.
"We just want to go out and play hard,and hopefully win every game" said Smith." If we keep on doing that,we'll just have to let the national critics decide for themselves."