Feeling at home, Anthony helps top Towson Catholic

National No. 1 Oak Hill gets 31 from ex-Owl, 61st straight win, 72-60

January 21, 2002|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A little rust nearly cost Oak Hill Academy.

The Warriors, the nation's top-ranked team according to USA Today, weathered a lackadaisical first half before finding their form and defeating Towson Catholic, 72-60, in the final game of the State Farm Roundball Classic at the Towson Center last night.

Oak Hill, which hadn't played since Wednesday because of the snowstorm that struck the Mid-Atlantic region, scored 27 points in the third quarter - just seven points less than its entire production in the first half - to outlast the Owls.

"We just seemed a little out of it," said Warriors coach Stephen A. Smith. "It was hard to get going."

Towson Catholic, perhaps motivated by facing former teammate and Syracuse-bound Carmelo Anthony, played a style that belied its 4-14 record. And judging by the Owls' energy, it was difficult to believe that they were playing their fourth game in as many nights.

"It's the energy of playing the No. 1 team in the nation," said Towson Catholic coach Mike Daniel. "If you play tired, something's wrong."

Senior guard Darnell Hopkins, named to the all-tournament team, paced Towson Catholic with 17 points, seven assists and three rebounds. Sophomore forward Jamal Smith registered 16 points, five rebounds and three steals, and junior forward Matt Stevenson chipped in 16 points and four rebounds.

Anthony was his usual self, scoring a game-high 31 points and grabbing five rebounds. Twelve of those points came in the pivotal third quarter, and he was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

The Warriors improved to 20-0, extending their winning streak to 61 games. Oak Hill is currently four wins short of tying the school record set by the 1991 squad that featured current NBA stars Cory Alexander and Ben Davis.

Nursing a 36-34 edge at halftime, Towson Catholic kept the Warriors at bay for the first three minutes of the third quarter. Then Oak Hill went on a 7-2 run to take a 48-44 lead. The spurt was sparked by a steal and three-point play from senior guard Justin Blake.

Hopkins' layup stemmed the tide, but the Warriors scored 13 of the next 17 points to enjoy a 61-50 advantage at the end of the period.

The Owls shaved the lead down to nine with a little more than three minutes left in the game, but Oak Hill converted seven of eight attempts at the free-throw line to seal the victory.

Towson Catholic had taken its first lead in the first minute of the second period off a putback from Smith and enjoyed its largest advantage at 28-24 when Hopkins dropped in a layup midway through the quarter.

The Warriors took off on a 7-2 spurt to reassume the lead with 2:31 left, but Smith scored four points during a 6-3 run to help the Owls walk into the locker room at halftime with the slight advantage.

Anthony said he and his teammates weren't too concerned about their first halftime deficit this season.

"We had to live up to our standards," Anthony said. "We started off slow, but we put it together in the second half."

Despite the loss, Daniel said he was pleased with his team's performance.

"I thought we played sensational in spurts," he said. "I thought we came in very focused, and I thought we did a good job against a great team."

NOTES: Joining Anthony and Hopkins on the tournament team were senior guard Gary Neal of Calvert Hall, sophomore center Brian Johnson of Bishop O'Connell, junior guard Linas Lekavicius of the Miller School, and sophomore guard Earl Risby of National Christian. ... Oak Hill's Smith drew closer to the 500-win mark. He is 489-31 in 17 years of coaching at the Mouth of Wilson, Va., school. ... Attendance at the Towson Center for all three games was 2,633.

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