City, Smith control Wicomico, 72-68 Guard's 26 give Knights 1st trip to College Park

Class 2A/Boys basketball

March 08, 1997|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Early in last night's Class 2A East regional final, City College coach Darryl Wade gave guard Omar Smith an order that the senior was all too happy to follow.

"He told me, 'Don't stop shooting,' " said Smith.

With his hot hand, Smith helped shoot the Knights right into the state semifinals. He scored 21 of his game-high 26 points in the first half, staking host City to an early lead on their way to a 72-68 victory over Wicomico.

City advances for the first time to College Park for a state semifinal game at 7 p.m. or 9 p.m. Friday.

"We just didn't want to lose," said Smith. "We said it wasn't going to be our last game."

Smith, as well as 7-foot-tall sophomore Derrick Goode (15 points, nine rebounds, four blocks), gave the Indians fits all night. Once the Eastern Shore team slowed Smith with a box-and-one, Goode picked up the slack inside, scoring 11 after halftime.

City (15-9) controlled the tempo the entire game, slowing the ball to a crawl on many possessions and throwing the run-happy Indians off their game.

"We knew that Wicomico was a fast-paced team, and we wanted to control the tempo," said Wade. "That's what we worked on all day yesterday -- controlling the tempo and denying them the fast break after a made basket. I think we did a good job of doing that."

In the process, the Knights also did a good job of stopping Wicomico leading scorer Damien Johnson. The Indians' all-time leading scorer went without a point in the first half, and finished with 13 on only two field goals.

"He had a little bit of an off night," said Wicomico coach Butch Waller. "I think he was just trying too hard."

Still, the outcome remained in doubt until the final seconds.

After trailing the entire second half, the Indians (23-3) cut City's lead to two on Johnson's dunk with 26 seconds left. Johnson then stole a pass at midcourt, but Al Hankerson's three-point attempt from the corner fell short with four seconds left.

City's Austin Baker then hit a pair of free throws to seal the win.

"I told the guys in the huddle with 10 seconds left, 'We're not going for the tie. We're going for the win,' " said Waller. "We didn't come up here to tie. We had a chance to win it at the end. What else can a coach ask for on the road?"

For City, the scene will now shift to the University of Maryland's Cole Field House, where history bodes well for the Knights, who are representing a region that has produced four state champions in the past five years.

"Last season was an adjustment period," said Wade, whose team finished 10-12 last year after he took over. "We had a lot of great athletes, but they had to adjust to my style of play. This year's team has really come around and adjusted. They just play hard."

Pub Date: 3/08/97

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