Annapolis takes a new look: up


February 05, 1993|By PAT O'MALLEY

It was in December 1977 at St. John's High in Washington that a rookie coach had just been embarrassed in his varsity basketball debut. His team was manhandled and lost by nearly 20 points.

Succeeding an Annapolis High legend in Al Laramore, the rookie coach had to deal with a lot of unhappy and doubting players that debut night.

"I heard them saying on the bench, 'Bring back Al,' so, when we got outside, I stood by the bus door, and told them that anyone who wanted Al back could have a quarter to call home for a ride and the rest could get on the bus," said John Brady, who has been coaching one of the county's most successful programs ever since.

But Brady's sixth-ranked Panthers (9-5) are staring at an-unheard-of fourth consecutive loss tonight at 15th-ranked Meade (13-1).

You have to go all the way back to the 1970-71 season to find the last time Annapolis went two straight seasons without a region title.

Arundel, under the late Jerry Mears, won its second straight region title in 1971, but it never has happened during Brady's reign. Other than Annapolis, only Old Mill (1992), Meade (1988 and 1983) and Severna Park (1981) have won region titles during the past 15 years.

In recent years, more kids throughout the county playing outdoor summer basketball and improved coaching have contributed to a higher caliber of high school player throughout the county.

It used to be there was Annapolis and the rest of the league, save for the 1982-83 season, when coach Butch Young's Meade team was clearly the best in the county. It defeated Annapolis an unprecedented three times in one season, including the Region IV final.

What was Brady's worst season at 17-7 is considered a great year by most other teams. It appears that Brady has such a team this season, but not the worse. It's just that everyone else has gotten better.

We are seeing the rise of 17th-ranked Glen Burnie (13-2) and Arundel (11-5), who for the first time can be mentioned in the same breath with the "big boys" -- Annapolis, Broadneck, Meade and Old Mill.

Could an incredible era be coming to an end?

The Brady years have been unmatched in county hoops history, with one state championship (1990), 11 region and 14 county titles and a career record of 327-59.

Brady, who started this season seeking his 14th 20-win campaign and averaging 21.2 wins (highest in county history), is believed to be the metro area coach to reach 300 wins the fastest. The 300-win milestone came just two games into his 15th season on Dec. 16, 1991, over his alma mater, Mount St. Joseph of Baltimore, 75-74.

Until last season when eventual Class 4A, Region IV champion Old Mill knocked off Annapolis in the region semifinals, 71-66, Brady's Panthers never had failed to reach at least the region championship game.

Tuesday night at Glen Burnie High, Annapolis lost (67-62) its third game in a row for only the second time in Brady's tenure. The first time was in January 1982, and those are the two longest losing streaks under Brady.

A fourth straight loss tonight at Meade is conceivable, something that has never happened since Brady left Andover as an assistant under the late Dick Hart (330-294, 30 years) to succeed Laramore.

"We might not win another game, the way we're going," said a somber, but somewhat joking, Brady after the Glen Burnie loss.

The streak began with losses to South River (86-84, overtime) and Southern (69-64) last week. It was the first-ever victory for the Seahawks over Annapolis and the first for Southern since December 1983.

Southern coach Tom Albright, who is the only county coach to go over 400 wins and boasts the most state boys championships (four), is 5-19 lifetime against Brady.

Glen Burnie had last defeated Annapolis in 1983 and the year before, but never on the Gophers' court until Tuesday night.

You need only to have seen the post-game celebrations, other than Glen Burnie, during the Panthers' skid to see how badly county opponents want to beat Annapolis. Glen Burnie was not quite as wild as the others, knowing it has to visit Annapolis on Feb. 19.

"Our players were dressed and out of the school before Southern got to the locker room," Brady said.

"Southern celebrated as if they had just won a state championship, and you should have seen South River, and how about Arundel? I hope we don't have to see too many more of those celebrations."

Annapolis had won three in a row after losing to Arundel (76-74) for the first time since 1975 before starting this three-game losing streak.

"You know the one thing that each of the three teams that have beaten us has done, is they've shot very well to beat us," Brady said. "Look at tonight, [Glen Burnie] hit all the big shots."

No question that coach Terry Bogle's Gophers were on fire, hitting five three-pointers, two buzzer-beater field goals (one a three-pointer) at the end of the second and third periods, and bombing in 15 of 32 shots in the first half.

"This is the deepest team we've ever had here, and they expect to win," said Bogle, who is in his 26th season.

Brady agreed and added: "We've been losing to very good teams, and all I can ask the kids to do is keep playing hard and maybe we can work our way out of this thing. I think right now we have a few players not playing with confidence."

In contrast, for the first time, several opposing teams are playing with confidence against Annapolis and believe they can win.

Meade and Coach Young, who has the best career record (10-27) against Brady among county coaches, certainly believe they can.

John Brady and his Panthers never have had to deal with four straight losses, but they might have to tonight.

As things are, despite being ranked above Meade, an Annapolis victory tonight would be an upset. Sounds strange, doesn't it?

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