Rams put on press for repeat Title defense: Randallstown revs up for a shot at its second straight Class 3A championship.

March 06, 1996|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It has come to be known simply as "The Steal."

Trailing by a point with 13 seconds left in last year's Class 3A state championship game against Thomas Johnson, Randallstown's Troy Lewis stole the ball near midcourt and streaked in for the winning layup, giving the Rams their first-ever state title.

For Lewis, it's a sweet memory, for sure, but one he says he now must try and forget.

"It's like a dream," said the senior point guard, "but it's last year's dream. I'm trying not to dwell on it. I want to do something for this year's team so we can go out just like last year's seniors went out."

Tomorrow, No. 9 Randallstown (20-4) will get a chance to do just that, continuing its quest for back-to-back state championships with a 5 p.m. game against Montgomery County's John F. Kennedy in the Class 3A state semifinals at Cole Field House.

To pull a repeat performance, the Rams will first have to get past a Cavaliers squad that in many ways seems to be a mirror image.

Both teams live and die with the full-court press, both like to push the ball on offense and both rely heavily on standout point guards -- Lewis (16.9 ppg, 8.3 assists) for Randallstown and 5-11 junior Demarlos Beasley (21.2 ppg in the playoffs after 14 ppg during the season) for Kennedy (15-9).

"It's going to be a very entertaining game," said Kennedy first-year coach Orlando Larracuente, whose team started the season with five straight losses before turning around its season. "When we won a game, it gave me the opportunity to get their attention. It showed the guys that maybe I could help them."

And at the time, the Cavaliers certainly needed the help.

None of their top seven players had played on the varsity for a full season, either sitting out last year for academic or disciplinary reasons, playing on the J.V. or transferring in from another school. It took several weeks for them to learn how to play as a team.

The turning point came in early January, when, trailing host Bethesda-Chevy Chase by 12 with two minutes to play, Kennedy rallied to tie before winning in double overtime.

"They've stepped up in the big games," said Larracuente. "This team seems to rise to the occasion."

Forward Tyjuan Campbell (18.5 ppg, 8.2 rebounds) and guard Dwayne Smith (15.2 ppg.) also carry the load on offense for a team that doesn't start a senior and lacks both height and depth.

Coach Kim Rivers' Randallstown squad can go 11 deep, including 6-foot-6 Lamont Clark (12 ppg., 8 rebounds), 6-4 Jerry Venable (8, 7.2) and 6-1 Brian Broden (17, 5.7). Dominique Liverpool, a 6-6 banger in the middle, is doubtful with a strained knee.

The backcourt is strong, with Lewis and Larry Montgomery (13.3, 6 assists), both strong passers as well as three-point threats.

Breaking the press will be a challenge, though the Rams got plenty of practice during the season against city powers Lake Clifton and Southwestern. After losing four out of five starters and watching three-time state champion Dunbar move up to Class 3A, Rivers said that most people didn't give his team a fighting chance to repeat.

Said Rivers: "If we could defend our state championship against the caliber of teams in this class, that would say a lot for our program and it would be a dream come true."

Pub Date: 3/06/96

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