Work ethic buoys Bulldogs Team concept: Southern finds way to win by playing within its ability.

March 06, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Imagine this.

The Southern High boys basketball players had just experienced the greatest sports moment in their young lives and they didn't instantly do what all teams do in such moments of joy.

They didn't climb up and cut the nets down without first asking permission from veteran coach Tom Albright last Saturday night following a 67-51 victory over Poly. The win earned the Bulldogs a trip to Cole Field House for the state Class 2A final four.

"Adam [Booth] came to me and asked if it was OK. That's the way these kids are," said Albright, who has ruled the Southern program with an iron hand for 31 years. Albright sends his 16-8 team against 22-3 Central of Prince George's County Friday at 7 p.m. in the Class 2A semifinals in College Park.

That self-restraint by the entire Southern team at a time when most youngsters act on impulse says everything about this team.

It tells why the Bulldogs lived to play game after game in the regional tournament when the odds were almost always stacked against them.

Wicomico and Poly both had superior talent to Southern but both fell by 16 points to the Bulldogs in the 2A East regional.

Southern's biggest player by far is 6-foot-5 senior center Matt Thomas, who is built more like a football player than a basketball player.

"It seemed to me like those two Poly guys [John McLean and Owain States] were competing against each other to see who could shoot and make the most three-pointers [Poly hit just five ++ of 34 threes]," said Thomas. "We didn't care about that kind of stuff. We wanted to get to College Park. This is the biggest thrill of my life."

After sacrificing his 240-pound body time after time against the physical Engineers by going on the floor for the ball and pulling down rebounds in a crowd, Thomas looked as if he had just come from a boxing match.

He didn't complain, especially after Albright went on the public address system after the game in the Southern gym and proclaimed that the 1995-96 version of Bulldogs basketball was No. 1 in all his years at the school in terms of "hard work and getting the most out of their ability."

A proud Thomas said: "Mr. Albright has been telling us for a while that we're the hardest working team he's ever had and now I know he really meant it. That makes me feel good."

Albright likes to call Southern basketball "one big family" all the way down the line from himself to Vernon and Jessie Gott.

Jessie Gott sells tickets to all Southern basketball and football games and her husband, Vernon, runs errands for Albright and drives him to scout other teams and to special functions such as yesterday's state tournament banquet at the BWI Marriott.

"I do anything Tom wants," said Vernon Gott, who gets a big kick out of being part of Southern basketball.

The Gotts have three sons (David, Charles and Ted) who were all basketball managers for Southern. Ted Gott came back after graduating from Washington College to be a teacher at Southern and is now assistant coach to Albright.

It's the loyalty of people like the Gotts and hundreds of others in Harwood that Albright hopes will help make a difference for the Bulldogs Friday night in spacious Cole Field House when they take on another team that has much more talent.

"We need to get all our fans over to Cole Field House to reward our kids for the incredible job they've done this year," said Albright. "Central won 15 games in a row in a tough league. They use their inside game and a variety of defenses. Central is something like Poly; they have a lot of good athletes. I believe they have even more athletes than Poly."

Pub Date: 3/06/96

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