Millers, Rams are seeking common bond of titles

March 09, 1995|By Jeff Seidel and Rich Scherr | Jeff Seidel and Rich Scherr,Special to The Sun

Geographically, Milford Mill and Randallstown sit just five miles apart in western Baltimore County. Come Saturday, however, the neighboring schools hope to share even more common ground.

A state basketball championship.

The sixth-ranked Rams open play today in the Class 3A state semifinals against Gwynn Park; the 12th-ranked Millers begin their quest for the 1A state crown tomorrow against Williamsport.

Both games are 5 p.m. at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House.

While it marks only the 11th time in the tournament's 68-year history that two or more Baltimore County teams have made it this far, the annual trip to College Park is becoming a tradition for some schools on the western side.

Milford Mill started the recent flurry in 1988 by giving the county its first state titlist in 25 years. Since then, Milford (1992, 1994) and Catonsville (1992) have won championships, with Randallstown and Woodlawn also making the final four.

For the Rams, today is their third appearance in a state semifinal since 1990. First-year coach Kim Rivers said that the area's new-found success is keyed by a recent change in its makeup.

"The county is starting to become a force to be reckoned with," said Rivers, "especially in the Woodlawn, Milford and Randallstown areas. You have a lot of kids who are relocating from the city, and it's starting to pay dividends to all of us."

Randallstown, which lost to Douglass of Baltimore in last year's semifinals, wants different results.

The Rams (24-1) are deeper than last year -- they rotate 11 players -- and use pressure defense to average 21 steals and nearly 85 points.

But against an equally deep Gwynn Park team, Rivers said the Rams will need to limit mistakes.

The Yellow Jackets (19-5), from Prince George's County, are led by 6-foot-2 guard Dion Dove (16.7 ppg, 4.4 assists), 6-3 guard Dedric Rogers (14.5 ppg), 6-4 forward Rashad McCloud (12.9 ppg, 7.9 rebounds) and 6-4 reserve forward Dwayne Taylor (13.4, 6.9). All four are considered Division I prospects and came from a junior-varsity program that went 33-1 over two years.

The Baltimore County champions are led by guard Lance Anderson (16.4 ppg, 4.4 steals) and 6-4 center D. J. Ward (14.5 ppg, 7.4 rebounds), but have seven players averaging more than 6.9 points.

Anderson has been out of practice most of the week with the flu, but is expected to be near full strength by game time.

After last week's narrow victory over C. M. Wright in the regional final -- a come-from-behind 66-65 win -- players say that a fast start today is a must.

"We have a tendency to come out slow and have to pick it up in the second half," said Ward, who scored 31 against the Mustangs, including 18 in the fourth quarter. "It let us know that we can't come out weak all the time. We have to start fast."

While Randallstown will be shooting for its first state title, Milford Mill will take aim at its fourth.

Millers coach Homer Seidel said he likes his team's chances -- if it plays up to its potential.

"We're going to have to play well and play as a team," said Seidel. "We're motivated right now, and now we're playing well. If that keeps up, and if we play together and work hard, we're going to be tough."

Three reasons the Millers (21-3) should be tough are 6-7 forward-center Blanchard Hurd (28.5 ppg, 18 rebounds), 6-3 forward Keon Sellman (16.9, 8.0) and guard Carlos Pearson (11.1 ppg).

The trio combined for 72 points in its team's 82-72 win over North East of Cecil County in the Class 1A North Region final.

Seidel also expects help from point guard A. J. Herbert and guard Brian Whorley.

Last year, Milford Mill defeated Williamsport, 59-40, in the state semifinal. The Wildcats never found the range in that game, going scoreless for the first 10 minutes.

Seidel fears that the Washington County team will be much better prepared this time.

"Williamsport is mentally prepared for this game," said Seidel. "We have to show up and be counted. You can't start playing a top-quality team in the second half. We have to play the whole game."

Williamsport (19-5) features six players averaging between eight and 15 points. Leading the way are Kollin Murphy (14.5 ppg), Alan Moore (12.4) and Jon Hall (11.4).

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