Mount's Cheung tries for encore Memory: Silas Cheung returns Friday to Rider, scene of his '95 heroics when he led Mount St. Mary's to the NEC title and an NCAA berth.

February 26, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

EMMITSBURG -- It was the moment when Silas was golden.

Date: March 5, 1995. Site: the Rider College gymnasium, affectionately known as, "the Broncs' Zoo." Situation: Mount St. Mary's down at halftime, 29-16.

What followed was what Mount institution Jim Phelan called "one of the most outstanding performances the school has ever had in an important game. It was exciting, kind of once in a lifetime for everybody."

A virtually unknown sophomore guard named Silas Cheung came off the bench to score 19 second-half points, propelling the Mount to a 69-62 victory in the Northeast Conference title game and into its first NCAA Division I tournament.

"What I remember was going off after the first half thinking how horrible we were," said Cheung, now a senior who leads the Mount back to Rider on Friday for the 1997 NEC quarterfinal round.

"The ball just wouldn't go through and we were getting embarrassed in front of all our supporters up there and on ESPN. Coach Phelan told us in the locker room that we had to show some guts in the second half."

"You put a sophomore into that pressure situation and hope he helps you," said Phelan. "You don't expect him to explode like that."

With cornerstones Chris McGuthrie and Riley Inge being tracked vigorously, Cheung was in that unstoppable zone when everything he shot turned to points.

"I hit the first couple and then I felt good," said Cheung. "It was a new play coach Phelan designed for the tournament with Riley penetrating and then kicking the ball out. It kept working."

Will there be a reprise? Probably not. Cheung is now the marked man and Mount St. Mary's is an entirely different team -- younger and more balanced than in the McGuthrie-Inge era.

"Now, I hear coaches saying, 'Don't let him get off' from the get-go," Cheung said, referring to himself. "On that other team, you knew what Chris and Riley would do. Now, six different guys could be the one to score 20."

Cheung is also confident that Phelan, who has seen it all in his 43 coaching years, will "throw in a couple new plays like he always does this time of year. That throws teams off."

The Mount enters the game with nine victories in 11 games and Cheung back in his familiar role of first guard off the bench.

He started games earlier this season, "but I didn't play well against the big schools. We had a lot of new players and I just wasn't clicking. I had a good game against Wagner off the bench and I told Cliff [assistant coach Cliff Warren] that I liked that, seeing what was going on first."

Cheung also likes the Mount's chances "because we're familiar with each other and playing well right now."

Added Phelan: "They [Rider] have to have some doubts because we've been lucky up there. They always show their remarkable home record, but we've beaten them three straight there."

It is not likely that Cheung will become the Most Valuable Player of the tournament again. He definitely won't at Rider.

But that first experience was unforgettable.

"The impact didn't really hit me until I was sitting on the bus on the way home," said Cheung. "I thought, 'Hey, this was a dream come true.' "

NEC tournament

At campus sites

First round

Last night

Marist 62, Wagner 60

St. Francis, NY 62, R. Morris 59

Quarterfinals

Friday

Marist at Long Island U., 7: 30 p.m.

St. Francis, N.Y. at Fairleigh Dickinson, 7: 30 p.m.

St. Francis (Pa.) at Monmouth (N.J.), 7 p.m.

Mount St. Mary's at Rider, 9 p.m.

Semifinals

Monday

LIU-Marist winner vs. Rider-Mount winner, TBA

FDU-St. Francis (N.Y.) winner vs. St. Francis (Pa.)-Monmouth winner, TBA

Championship

March 6

Semifinal winners, 4: 30 p.m.

Tickets: Call (301) 447-5700 or (800) 628-2722.

Tonight's game

Coppin State (16-8, 13-3) at North Carolina A&T (13-9, 11-4)

Site: Corbett Center, Greensboro, N.C.

Time: 7:30

Outlook: The Eagles can clinch their fifth straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular-season title and seventh in the past eight years with a victory. They have revenge as a strong motivation. The Aggies ended their 42-game home winning streak, 76-70, in the first meeting Jan. 15 by shooting 64 percent from the field. G Jon Richmond was the leader with 22 points and C Terquin Mott topped Coppin with 19. Coach Fang Mitchell is shooting for his 200th career victory at Coppin, which has won two straight and 12 of its past 13 games.

Pub Date: 2/26/97

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