This time, there were no pre-game surprises.
No last-minute lineup changes, no off-court turmoil, no excuses.
And no loss.
Ray Osborne led all scorers with 26 points, and James Sharps added 23, as the Anne Arundel Community College men's basketball team avenged an earlier defeat to Essex Community College with an 84-71 victory yesterday in Arnold.
On Jan. 16, the Knights took a 61-47 decision at home over the Pioneers, who learned shortly before the tip-off that newcomer Jamal Harris wouldn't be available because he hadn't paid his tuition for the second semester.
They already had lost two starters and a reserve for academic reasons, and thelatest shake-up was more than Anne Arundel could withstand.
Afterward, Pioneers coach Mark Amatucci laid partial blame for the loss on"too many distractions off the court." He resigned two days later after a victory over Harford.
Under replacement Mark Healy, a formerassistant, Anne Arundel fared better on its home court against Essex. The Knights only led once, 2-0, in falling to 8-18 overall. The Pioneers snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 18-10 with onegame remaining, at 6 p.m. today against Prince George's.
"Raymondand Andy (Srebroski) and James didn't have good games up there, and we didn't have Carlos (Hall) yet," said Healy, citing other reasons for the earlier loss. "We were without a point guard, and our three scorers just didn't shoot the ball very well."
The Pioneers again were without Srebroski, a 6-foot-1 sophomore forward who now splits histime between basketball games and baseball practices. But his replacement, Zach Herold, scored all 10 of his points in the first half to help Anne Arundel to a 43-29 lead after 20 minutes.
Though Herold was shut out in the second half, freshman Lester Lee came off the bench to score eight points. Sophomore center Mike Davis added seven points and 10 rebounds.
"I've been working and talking with Daryl (Reid), Lester and Zach together," said Healy, who is 8-7 since becominghead coach. "They need to play every night to give a consistent effort. A consistent effort is just working hard, and when you get a chance to produce, to do your best and produce. And that's what they're doing."
Hall scored eight of his 10 points in the second half and keyed an 8-0 run that interrupted an Essex rally. The visitors had climbed within four points, 58-54, with just under 11 minutes remaining when Hall sank two free throws, scored inside, fed Sharps for a lay-up and drove the lane for a basket that gave Anne Arundel a 66-54 leadwith eight minutes left.
Essex had closed the gap to nine points,68-59, with five minutes left, when Lee scored inside, then made a steal that led to a Sharps free throw. Essex again turned over the ball, and Lee scored on a one-handed runner off the glass to bump Anne Arundel further ahead, 73-59.
The Pioneers only committed four turnovers and four team fouls in building a 14-point halftime lead. But they finished with 16 turnovers and 17 fouls after a less-impressive second half that also featured poor shot selection and impatience on offense.
"We stopped running our offense. We were just coming down and taking bad shots," said Sharps, who also had nine rebounds. Osborne had a team-high 13 boards.
Healy doesn't sound relieved that the season -- which began with Anne Arundel on a one-year probation -- is about to end.
"Under these circumstances, any one of these kidscould have bailed out, but none of them have quit. These are some ofthe toughest kids I know. I'm proud of them," he said.
Guard Craig Andrews led Essex with 19 points.