December 04, 1992|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,Contributing Writer

As the 1992-93 high school basketball season gets into full swing today, there is good and bad news for area fans.

First, the good news: City public schools can compete for a state championship, after officially joining the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association earlier this year. Matchups such as Lake Clifton against High Point of Prince George's County or Southern against Thomas Johnson of Frederick County could occur in the state finals.

"Certainly, there will be a true state champion," Milford Mill coach Homer Seidel said of the city schools joining the MPSSAA. "The county teams are going to have to step up. The teams are going to become more and more balanced. There will be some exciting competition."

Now, the bad news: The area's top two teams, Dunbar and Southern, will not play each other this season. Under the MPSSAA point system, a team receives eight points for a victory over a 4A school, seven for a 3A school, six for a 2A and five for a 1A. Southern is a 3A school and Dunbar is a 1A school. The point benefits of a win over Dunbar simply aren't worth the challenge.

"The Dunbar-Southern game has been a big rivalry over the past few years," said Dunbar star forward Keith Booth. "Southern has a good team and we do also. By us joining the state organization, it does take away from rivalries like Dunbar-Southern, Lake Clifton-Southern and Walbrook-Dunbar."

There are some other major changes this season. With the city schools joining the MPSSAA, the Maryland Scholastic Association had to realign the conferences to accommodate the public schools' move to the MPSSAA.

Eliminating the A, B and C Conference format, there will be two conferences -- Gamper and Armstrong -- with two divisions for each: 3A-1A and 4A-2A in the Gamper; A and B in the Armstrong. Catholic League schools, which returned to the MSA in 1988, won't play city schools this season.

"That's the way it has to be and there's nothing we can do about it," said Cardinal Gibbons coach Ray Mullis, whose team is in the Armstrong Conference's A Division. "They [city schools] now have restrictions. The league as a whole will still be competitive."

The Poets, last year's consensus No. 1, enter the season with a 52-game winning streak, seven shy of the school record and the country's second-longest streak. Ranked No. 5 by USA Today, they are the Baltimore Sun's preseason No. 1 pick.

No. 3 Lake Clifton figures to give the Poets their stiffest local challenge with two meetings during the season at Morgan State. Walbrook and Southern will battle for supremacy in the 3A-1A division, but watch out for Southwestern, which surprised several teams last season and nearly upset Dunbar.

Severn is the favorite in the B Division, and a tight race is expected in the A Division among Towson Catholic, Gibbons, Calvert Hall and Loyola. Those same teams are shaping up to make the Catholic League race one of the most competitive in seasons. St. Frances may be the dark horse in the league this season.

In the Baltimore County 4A-3A League, Woodlawn looks primed to unseat defending Class 3A champion Catonsville. Overlea is the favorite in 2A-1A, but defending state Class 1A champ Milford Mill, along with Hereford and Loch Raven, could challenge.

There also have been some changes among coaching ranks.

Paul Holmes, former assistant at Dunbar, is head coach at Northern, replacing long-time mentor Manny Werner, who retired. Holmes is the second coach in school history.

Former assistant Pat Clatchley is the new coach at Mount St. Joseph, and another former Gaels assistant, Leon Thomas, is the new coach at Mount Carmel.

Overlea, which reached the state Class 2A championship game, has a new coach, Tom Gere. Andrew Pons left Lansdowne to become coach at Dundalk. Lansdowne junior varsity coach Mike Cromer moves up to fill the void left by Pons on the varsity. At Kenwood, Rick Graves is the new coach.

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