Phelan gets 700th, first place, too Mount tops Wagner, 69-64, for milestone

January 29, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- It couldn't have happened at a better moment for the legend of the Mount.

Jim Phelan of Mount St. Mary's became the eighth coach in collegiate basketball history to win 700 games last night, and his team simultaneously took over first place in the Northeast Conference with a 69-64 victory at Wagner.

The milestone came before a mostly hostile crowd on the road in a first-place showdown. Phelan's kind of circumstances.

"I'm really happy it's over with," Phelan, 63, said after a post-game drenching from his players. "I thought it would be a hard game, and it was. It's better to do it this way than to be sweating again Saturday."

Senior guard Kevin Booth said the players didn't think too much about the milestone. "You block everything else out. You don't have to get psyched up for a game like this," he said. "The 700th and first place in the league."

The Mountaineers (7-8, 6-2) weren't particularly artful, but they were inspired.

They trailed 56-53 with 8:59 remaining when Phelan called a timeout. He said he didn't tell them any particular strategy, but it was at that point that they took over.

Two free throws by Anthony Carr pulled the Mount to within one and Phil Galvin then hit a three-pointer. Quincy Lewis responded with a three-pointer to regain the lead for Wagner, 59-58, but the buck stopped there.

The Mount converted the next eight points, four by freshman Chris McGuthrie, and never trailed again.

"We just came out and played very hard the last nine minutes, just like we did in the first half," said sophomore forward Michael Watson. "We got things under control."

A contingent of about 100 supporters from Emmitsburg joined the Mount. They were outnumbered, but not out-yelled.

"Needless to say, I was very pleased with the effort," said Phelan, who won his 600th nearly six years ago at Pitt-Johnstown when the Mount was in Division II.

"That stretch where we were under pressure in the second half was particularly noteworthy. We were able to play tough. We seem to be able to do that this season."

Of his post-game dousing, a smiling Phelan said: "These young whippersnappers don't have the respect that the guys of old did."

Nailing down the 700th on the road will mean the Mount can now focus on its season goal-- the NEC title. It has never been in first place this late in the season since joining the NEC in 1989.

"It took us awhile to get it [the 700th]," said Phelan, whose team lost its first four games. "But the best part is we had to battle back from adversity and did it."

The Basketball Hall of Fame has requested the ball and the trademark bow tie Phelan wore from this game.

"I'm just happy we were able to do this against the team that was in first place," said Phelan. "That makes it a little more special."

Although he was only five of 18 from the field, McGuthrie led the Mount with 15 points.

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