Southern knocks off Gratz behind Simpson's 38 points

January 29, 1994|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,Contributing Writer

Until this season, Southern of Baltimore has failed to gain recognition in the national rankings. One of the reasons was a 0-3 mark in the Charm City Classic.

And even though the Bulldogs have the No. 4 ranking in USA Today, there was still questions about them going into last night's game with Simon Gratz of Philadelphia, the nation's No. 6 team.

The Bulldogs silenced those critics with a 74-68 victory over the defending national champions in a Northwest bracket game, before a sellout crowd of more than 3,000 at Loyola College's Reitz Arena.

Southern (10-0), which extended the state's longest winning to 23 games, will play (Dunbar or Rice (N.Y.) in the championship game tonight at 8:45.

Senior shooting guard Kevin Simpson set a Charm City Classic record with 38 points and added 14 rebounds. Dante Williams had 11 points and six rebounds.

"We played together on the offensive and defensive end," said Southern coach Meredith Smith. "I thought for the most part we executed well after getting off to a slow start, but after that we adjusted and played very well."

Leading by as many as 13 points in the final quarter, the Bulldogs saw the lead dwindle to 68-63 with less than a minute left, but Southern held on by hitting four free throws.

"We came out a little nervous in the first quarter because we knew Simon Gratz was a great team," said senior guard Damon Cason, who had 10 points and five assists. "We had to calm down and play our game."

Until a 72-71 victory Dec. 10 over Dunbar,then ranked No. 8 nationally, Southern had lost seven straight to nationally ranked teams and was winless in the Charm City Classic.

After earlier losses by Lake Clifton and Walbrook, Baltimore teams had lost eight straight games in the Classic. But Southern, especially Simpson, changed that.

Simpson, 6 feet 5, dominated at both ends for the Bulldogs, scoring 25 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in the final 16 minutes.

"Dante [Williams] did a good job getting me the ball in the block," said Simpson. "I was just happy to hit my shots, but the team deserves all the credit."

At one point in the second half, Simpson scored 11 straight points as Southern had a 55-46 lead. Two baskets by Dante Williams gave Southern its largest lead, 59-46, with 5:33 left.

The lead was 63-52, but behind the shooting of Shawn Smith (21 points) and Terrel Stokes (14), Simon Gratz went on an 8-2 run to close the margin to 65-60 with 1:46 left.

"They're a good team," said Simon Gratz coach Bill Ellerbee. "When you play a good team, you have to play good, and we could have played better."

In their last meeting last December at the Johnstown Memorial Tournament, Simon Gratz defeated the Bulldogs, 61-44.

Simon Gratz, which has lost twice to the country's No. 1 team, Rice (N.Y.), jumped out to a 6-0 lead as Southern missed its first six shots, but the Bulldogs rallied to lead 18-8 at the end of the quarter.

Trailing 8-5, the Bulldogs closed the quarter with a 13-0 run, highlighted by Cason's 45-foot jumper at the buzzer.

After a jumper by Cason extended Southern's lead to 20-8, Simon Gratz outscored Southern, 16-4, to pull into a 24-24 tie.

With nine seconds left in the half, Simpson rebounded a missed lTC by John Hemsley and put it back in for a 35-30 halftime lead.

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