Southern-AA learns tough, timely lesson


March 06, 1994|By PAT O'MALLEY

Time can be a basketball coach's best friend or worst enemy.

Most love to emphasize playing under control and using the clock when they have a comfortable lead in the waning moments. The idea is to make the team trailing them beat both the opposition and the clock.

If a team takes chances and ignores that philosophy, it can blow a game it had in hand. That happened to the Southern-Anne Arundel boys basketball team Thursday night in front of a packed house on the Eastern Shore at Chesapeake College.

No. 9 Southern (17-5) dropped a heartbreaking 78-70 decision in overtime to Cambridge-South Dorchester (21-1) in the Class 2A East Region semifinals. It was a game Southern had in hand until it violated the time-on-your-side theory.

Southern had led all the way and had a 12-point lead with 2:50 left, but the Vikings spun an incredible 12-0 run and forced overtime. When senior Tori Willis made a left-handed lay-in seconds into the extra period, it was Cambridge's first lead all night.

The Vikings were down by eight with 1:33 left and by four with about 30 seconds to go. Back-to-back layups by Willis and sophomore Hanee Camper (team-high 16 points), the last with 17 seconds left, tied the game at 63. Southern missed three shots under its basket in the final 10 seconds.

It was just as much Southern's fault it lost as it was to Cambridge's credit that it won. Four turnovers in the final 1:20 in regulation cost the Bulldogs the game.

Southern coach Tom Albright called timeout with 1:41 left and told his team to move the ball around and use the clock.

Eight seconds later, a questionable call (and there were quite a few in the final moments by the Bayside officials who worked the game) put the Vikings' Gary Bryan on the line for a one-and-one. Bryan made both to make it 63-55 Southern.

Not following the coach's orders, Southern rushed an alley-oop pass that Chatney Howard, leaping over the rim, almost always makes.

Howard (game-high 19 points) never got control, but the Vikings did on Southern's eighth turnover (of 11) in the final period and took it up the other end for a score to cut the lead to 63-57.

There is a time for such crowd-pleasing plays, and that wasn't it.

The idea is to win and not give the other team a chance to come back. Howard and the other Southern players who will play in college learned a bitter lesson.

It turned out to be the key play of the game because it cut the lead and used little time. Cambridge stole the ball back and Camper made it a four-point game, although I saw him stiff-arm and knock Southern's Adrian Turner to the floor at midcourt without a whistle.

"They were as aggressive as we were, but it seemed like nobody saw it," said Albright afterward.

The final stats support Albright's claim. Southern went to the foul line only seven times (hitting four), and Cambridge made 21 of 27. When you play in the other guy's back yard (Cambridge is about 30 minutes from Chesapeake) with his officials, it's all the more reason to use the clock when you have the lead late.

The time factor and choice of plays was not the only lesson here for Southern. There was another from their coach.

Winners don't make excuses and blame others. Albright showed afterward why he is a winner and has been such a great coach for nearly 30 years at Southern. Instead of blaming his players, he took the blame, even though he knows the importance of that one big play.

"I blame myself for letting them get back in the game," said Albright. "They changed to that full-court press, got us into a lot of traps and we didn't adjust. It was a pretty tough and I take the blame."

It takes quite a coach to bear the burden, and it's obvious why Albright is 430-235 with four state titles (both county records) in 29 seasons at Southern.

Just this week Albright told me how much fun coaching still is and that retirement is way off.

"They will have to drag me out of here, but there comes a time and you know when it's there," said Albright.

Hopefully for Southern and Anne Arundel County basketball, that time is far off because the man is a gentleman and caring coach and a credit to the profession.

F: We want time to always be on the side of Tom Albright.

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