Gaskins comes so far to be so short

March 08, 1994|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

Marcia Gaskins should have been on top of the world, not feeling as though everything around her had crumbled to the ground. The tears that streamed down her cheeks as she stood in a hallway outside the gymnasium at Chesapeake College on Saturday should have been symbols of her joy.

Instead, Northeast's 5-foot-8 junior forward was feeling the disappointment of coming up short in the Class 2A, East Region final. And it hurt more than words could say.

The Eagles, seeded sixth and not expected to make it this far, threw a scare into No. 4 seed South River, coming within inches of locking up a berth in this week's state tournament at UMBC. And they would have had Gaskins, more than anyone, to thank for it.

After a quiet first half in which she rarely touched the ball and had just four points, Gaskins lifted the Eagles on her back and nearly carried them all the way to UMBC.

She registered 19 points in the last two quarters, including a three-pointer with 20 seconds left that tied the score 60-60.

On that play, she took a pass at the top of the arc, turned toward the basket and launched a shot that hit nothing but net, bringing the Northeast fans to their feet and almost bringing South River to its knees.

"We were down by three," she said, "the ball landed in my hands and I said, 'I'm taking it.' I knew as soon as I let it go that it was going in."

The Seahawks' Amy Nye showed just as much poise, though, making a jumper with seven seconds remaining for a 62-60 lead.

The excitement wasn't over. Northeast sophomore Kristin Briggs was fouled as she released a three-point shot with one second left, sending her to the line for three free throws and a chance to win the game. She made the first one, but struck the rim on the next two. Teammate Maleah Rey gathered the second miss, but her desperation shot also hit the iron as the buzzer sounded.

"I was shaking," said Gaskins, a transfer from Texas who ended the season averaging a team-leading 16.1 points and 7.6 rebounds. "We were all nervous and excited at the same time. We really didn't know what to feel. I think most of the team is still in shock."

Her fourth-quarter exploits deserve a closer look.

There was the basket that cut into a 49-43 deficit, the driving layup with 3:05 left that had Northeast behind 57-53, the follow with 2:18 remaining that shaved the margin to two, and the jumper in the lane 43 seconds later that brought Northeast within one.

She then rebounded a miss by South River's Amy Perry -- one of the few times that an errant shot didn't wind up in the hands of South River's Pam Patterson (27 points, 25 rebounds) -- but Rey couldn't get a three-pointer to fall.

Gaskins would take care of that in the last 20 seconds, nearly pushing the game beyond regulation.

"I wanted to do all I could," she said. "It was a hard loss."

Gaskins played one year of varsity basketball at Gregory Portland High, averaging around nine points a game in a season that was marred by frequent disagreements with her coach. "Personality problems," she said.

When she arrived at Northeast, she was expected to bring some much-needed size to a guard-oriented team that tended to live and die with the outside shot.

Coach Calvin Vain said, "She had been pretty steady in the first half of the year, averaging 15 a game. And I personally felt that her better games were yet to come."

He was right. She put together three sensational efforts in the playoffs, totaling 65 points and helping Northeast get farther than expected of a bottom seed.

"She's been steady as can be, and she can get a little bit better," Vain said. "She has a variety of skills. It makes her a tough player."

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