For an intense competitor, Anne Arundel Community College basketballcoach Mark Amatucci was surprisingly calm after his team was beaten by 10 points Saturday.
Maybe the time of the year has Amatucci counting his blessings -- his men's hoop squad maintains a 7-3 record after losing to Dundalk Community College, 104-94, Saturday at Jenkins Gymnasium. Despite losing, Amatucci was pleased with his team's play.
"They are a Division I team and they are very talented," said Amatucci. "I really thought we had an excellent effort against them. I think that the two major things that stand out are that we got in foultrouble with our point guard (Ralph Purnell) and James (Sharps), andwe just don't have that same kind of depth that a Division I school like Dundalk has."
Sharps, a sophomore forward, sat down for a good chunk of the first half with three fouls. He picked up his fourth foul with over 14 minutes left in the second half, taking him out of his usual aggressive style of play. He would go on to finish the game with 11 points, only three of which came in the second half.
Simply put, the Lions (6-3) did the better job of playing what Amatucci calls "end to end offense."
"Our kids just played well today," said Dundalk coach Donald Beasley. "I knew Amatucci would have his guys ready to play. And we (the coaching staff) preached to them before the game that if they weren't ready to play, we were going to get run outof here. My team just played with intensity."
The play of Lions' point guard Stevie Hicks had a lot to do with raising his team's level of play a notch. The 6-foot Hicks scored 14 of his team-high 22 points in the second half, finally finding his range on his way to burying 10 points (two three pointers and two 15-footers) in a three-and-a-half-minute span. Hicks would go on to nail two other three-pointersbefore the final buzzer.
Forward George Dukes tied Hicks for the team scoring lead, ringing up his team's first six points of the gameen route to a 12-point first half. Patrick Autry contributed 19 points for the winners.
"We played very poorly against Howard (Community College) last week. We got beat bad," said Amatucci, adding Howardand Dundalk play with a similar style. "They both have the athletes that can run up and down the floor. We just did a very, very good jobof dealing with that today as opposed to what we did against Howard."
For the majority of the first half, the Pioneers stayed stride for stride with the Lions. With the help of Keith Thompson (game-high 33 points) and Purnell (13 points) the hosts survived their first major lapse -- one that saw them fall behind 30-23 with 11 minutes left in the half -- to take their last lead of the afternoon, a short-lived 40-39 advantage with 6:25 remaining in the half.
Anne Arundel's zone press enabled them to make an early second-half run, narrowing Dundalk's 56-47 halftime lead to 67-64 with 14 minutes left in the game.
However, the Lions would expand their lead to 81-68 a little more than four minutes later. From that point on, the closest AACC would get would be 93-84 on a Ray Osborne jumper. Osborne finished the game with 20 points, while center Mike Davis registered 12.
Said Amatucci: "We don't like to lose, but I think we've done a lot of good things in the early part of the year, and I'm pretty happy being 7-3."
Anne Arundel will host Essex on Jan. 6 and Cecil on Jan. 8.