Fuel Fund Classic has high aspirations

January 17, 1994|By Kevin Eck and Derek Toney | Kevin Eck and Derek Toney,Contributing Writers

Moments after Dunbar had completed its 29-0 national championship season with a victory over Walbrook in the 1992 Metro Classic, a hopeful for the Democratic Presidential nomination helped present the commemorative jackets to the Poets.

Few knew then that guest presenter Bill Clinton would become President. No one knew that it would be the last Metro Classic.

Today, The Fuel Fund Classic at the Baltimore Arena picks up where the Metro Classic left off. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Fuel Fund of Central Maryland, which helps needy area families pay fuel costs.

The mixer is comprised of three boys and two girls games.

A meeting between No. 2 Dunbar and No. 4 Woodlawn at 8 p.m. highlights the boys portion. No. 5 Lake Clifton and No. 9 Broadneck will play at 4 p.m. and Edgewood and Hammond meet in the opening game at noon.

Four of the area's top six girls teams will be playing, including a showdown for the area's top ranking between No. 1 Western and No. 2 Hammond at 6 p.m. No. 5 St. Mary's will face No. 6 Mount Hebron at 2 p.m.

Despite the absence of 1992-93 Baltimore County Player of the Year Donte Dudley, who has been out all season with a knee injury, Woodlawn (11-0) hasn't missed a beat. The Warriors bring a 35-game regular-season winning streak into tonight's contest.

And the Warriors, who are 34-1 over the past 1 1/2 seasons, are looking to gain some respect for Baltimore County basketball.

In the past 30 years, Baltimore County has produced only four state champions. In its first season in the MPSSAA last year, Baltimore City had two state champions in Dunbar (Class 1A) and Southern (Class 3A).

"It's a great honor," said Woodlawn senior guard Steve Jackson on playing Dunbar. "They have a good team. They always get a lot of publicity and you can't take that away from them. We will need to play our best to compete with them."

In Dudley's absence, 6-foot-7 junior forward Guy Butler (18.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg) has emerged. Along with 6-7 senior Emanuele Adekunle (10.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg), they will go against one of the country's top front lines, led by Virginia-bound Norman Nolan (16.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and senior forward Rodney Elliott (11.1 ppg, 10.8 rpg).

The Poets (9-1), ranked No. 13 nationally by USA Today, have only lost to No. 1 Southern-Baltimore. Dunbar, which has won six straight, apparently has overcome some early-season disciplinary problems and adjusted to interim coach Paul Smith's system.

Although the area's No. 1 ranking will be at stake when Western (10-1) and Hammond (8-1) meet, Western coach Breezy Bishop and Hammond coach Joe Russo have said that rankings are inconsequential at this point.

The two coaches are more concerned with getting back to the state championship game. Western was stunned by Old Mill in last season's Class 4A final, and Hammond lost to Middletown in the Class 2A championship game.

"I don't really concern myself with rankings," Bishop said. "I just try to prepare my kids to play one game at a time."

Nevertheless, the game is an intriguing one.

Western is used to having the edge in quickness and athleticism against most opponents, but the Doves may have met their equal in Hammond.

"I think they're quicker than we are, and they play excellent defense," Bishop said. "We don't want to get into a running game with them.

"We're a different kind of team this year. Normally we are a pressing team, but now we play a half-court game. We like to change our defenses and be patient on offense."

The game also features two of the area's most talented players: Western junior guard/forward Chanel Wright (20.9 ppg, 11.0 rpg) and Hammond senior point guard Kacy Williams (13.9 ppg, 6.5 apg), who has signed with Georgetown.

Had it not been for Elizabeth Seton (D.C.), the two teams would have met in the IAABO Tournament championship game in December.

Seton knocked off the Golden Bears, 59-47, in the semifinals, before beating the Doves, 59-54, for the title.

During The Fuel Fund Classic news conference in December, Broadneck coach Ken Kazmarek said the Bruins (8-1) were "looking forward to playing who could be the area's No. 1 team at the time" in Lake Clifton.

The Lakers (8-2) aren't ranked No. 1, but they are beginning to hit their stride. They have won their past five games.

"We're making that extra pass that we weren't then," said Lake Clifton coach Charlie Moore. "We're looking forward to playing -- Broadneck and representing the school, Baltimore City and ourselves."

Lake Clifton, which scored over 100 points twice last week, will try to turn the game into a track meet by pressuring Broadneck. The Bruins will need a big game from junior guard Jason Smith (18.1 ppg) to pull the upset.

The St. Mary's-Mount Hebron game pits two teams apparently going in different directions.

St. Mary's (13-2) has won 12 straight after a 1-2 start and claimed sole possession of first place in the Catholic League after a 64-62 victory over fourth-ranked St. Frances last Monday.

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