Youthful Friends graduates with title Quakers complete unlikely run, hold off Glenelg County, 43-41

MIAA C championship

March 01, 1998|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Friends coach Randy Cooper can only laugh when recalling the early weeks of this season. With just one varsity-tested player on the Quakers' roster, he basically had to start from scratch.

"We started the season with essentially a J.V. team," Cooper said. "When you do that, you've got to teach kids how to play man-to-man, how to play zone I mean, they knew nothing."

Nearly three months later, the young Quakers -- who at one point were 1-10 -- completed their schooling with honors, winning the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference championship last night with a 43-41 victory over Glenelg Country School at Villa Julie College.

It was a triumphant, if not shocking, end for a team that earlier this season had been blown out by the Dragons by 19 points.

"This was one of the most enjoyable years we've ever had," said Cooper. "The kids had no egos, and were just dumb enough to believe they could win."

Led by guards Brett Benjamin (14 points) and James Flinn (10), and center C.J. Nixon (seven), the Quakers (12-13) ran out to a 10-2 lead after the first 3: 11 and held it for most of the game. Using a deliberate, ball-control offense and hard-nosed defense, they extended the lead to as much as 10 points before the Dragons mounted a comeback.

"We wanted them trying to come back; not us," said Benjamin. "We wanted to get out to a big lead right off the bat."

Glenelg Country's Eric Greenberg hit five three-pointers in the final nine minutes to briefly give his team a 30-29 lead early in the fourth quarter. Tied at 41 late, however, Scott Fritze's layup with 36 seconds left was the difference, as the Dragons (19-5) never got a decent shot the rest of the way.

"We couldn't make our shots early, and we dug a hole," said Glenelg Country coach John Aquila, whose team started the game 3-for-17 from the field. "It takes a lot out of a team to come from behind. I thought we showed character by fighting to get back in the ballgame, but it takes a lot of energy to do that."

The win was the 11th in 14 games for Friends, which players say began playing like a championship team after the Christmas break.

"After Christmas we started playing with more confidence," said Benjamin.

In their semifinal win over Park, the Quakers rallied from a six-point deficit with 40 seconds to go to win at the buzzer. That, said Cooper, set the stage for last night.

"When you win a game like that," said Cooper, "you believe anything can happen."

Pub Date: 3/01/98

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