Southern-AA pushes Central hard, but fades in closing minutes, 57-50 Bigger, faster Falcons advance to 2A title game

March 09, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Southern-Anne Arundel coach Tom Albright wanted to blame himself for some poor rebounding strategy and Jeff Crandell felt he hurt the team by taking some "dumb shots."

But the reason Southern's impossible dream ended last night at Cole Field House was fairly simple.

The Central Falcons of Prince George's County were a superior team with far more height and quickness than the Bulldogs, resulting in a hard-earned 57-50 victory over Southern in the state Class 2A semifinals.

Very few people expected this game to be that close, but the Bulldogs out-hustled the favored Falcons most of the night and kept things interesting until the end.

However, any hopes Southern (16-9) had of overtaking Central (23-3) in the final two minutes were wiped out by Central senior guard Kershaw Frager, who put on quite a dribbling exhibition to keep the ball away from the Bulldogs, who had cut their deficit to 51-47 on a Matt Thomas free throw with 2: 32 left.

Frager dribbled behind his back and through his legs to run large chunks of the clock off and force Southern to foul in an attempt to get the ball.

Frager, who led Central with a game-high 19 points, scored four of the final six points for the Falcons with a driving layup for a 53-47 lead with 1: 20 left and two free throws with 36.5 seconds BTC remaining for a 55-47 advantage.

Southern had no answer for Frager except to fire away from the outside in the final minutes, but the Bulldogs missed all three of their three-point attempts in the final 1: 10 and wound up with only one field goal in the last 4: 42 of the game. Scott Crandell finished with 14 points and nine rebounds to lead Southern. Thomas added 12 points and Jeff Crandell scored nine and had a team-high 10 rebounds.

Thomas, who had been averaging close to 18 rebounds a game in the regionals, was held to five by Central's pair of 6-foot-6 leapers, Charles Alston and Kevin Flood.

Thomas just couldn't get past those two players to get the ball, and Alston wound up with 15 rebounds and Flood five to help account for Central's 50-41 advantage on the boards.

"I spent all my time trying to box out," said Thomas. "They were big and really quick." Albright said he should have given Thomas more help on the boards.

"They were double-teaming on one side and I should have done something to negate it, but I thought we were OK on the boards going into the game," said Albright.

"Also, we allowed them to get us in a race-horse type of game in the last four minutes of the second quarter (15-5 Central run that wiped out a 26-18 Southern lead). We shot too quick when we came down. But in the end they just wore us down."

Albright received congratulations from long-time Southern followers after the game, but the hurt in his eyes told the story.

"I know we played them tough, but I wanted to win. I'm going to hate to lose these guys [four senior starters -- Thomas, Scott Crandell, Derek Hawkins and Adam Booth]."

Jeff Crandell, the only junior starter, said, "We'll be back."

For the talented Central team, it is one step closer to becoming the first team in the school's history to be ranked No. 1 in the Washington metro area. If the Falcons beat Aberdeen in the state 2A title game today, they certainly will replace No. 1 Gwynn Park at the top. Gwynn Park was beaten by Dunbar on Thursday in the 3A semifinals.

SOUTHERN-ANNE ARUNDEL -- Hawkins 4, S. Crandell 14, Thomas 12, J. Crandell 9, A. Booth 9, Medley 2. Totals 21 6-8 50.

CENTRAL -- Flood 6, Frager 19, Alston 11, Watford 2, Lipscomb (( 17, Reid 2. Totals 21 12-15 57.

Halftime: Central, 33-31

Pub Date: 3/09/96

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