Smelkinson comes up big for Long Reach in 2 OT

Late charge, free throws help stop Howard, 80-77

Boys basketball

High Schools

February 09, 2002|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

The smallest player on the court made the game's biggest play last night, and helped keep alive Long Reach's Howard County title hopes.

With eight seconds left in double overtime, 5-foot-4 point guard Mike Smelkinson -- who played the fourth quarter and two overtimes with four personal fouls -- drew a charge against 6-foot-4 Howard center Paul Thompson, powering the Lightning to an 80-77 victory.

Smelkinson's defense preserved a two-point lead, as Thompson's shot fell but did not count and he fouled out on the play. Then, Smelkinson was fouled with seven seconds left, and the sophomore sank one of two free throws.

The Lions' Steve Coursey grabbed the rebound and called timeout with five seconds left. But Brandon Gregory missed a last-ditch shot from the top of the circle and the Lightning (16-3, 12-3 league) had a win, a first-place tie in the County with River Hill, and revenge for an 11-point loss to the Lions earlier this season.

The charge was one of five that Smelkinson took to go with his six assists and 17 points.

"They were taking it to the hoop a lot. They're very athletic," said Smelkinson. "So Coach told us to take the charge. I didn't get a couple of calls earlier in the game and got into foul trouble."

Howard led 64-54 with 4:30 left in the game before Long Reach came back by scoring the next 10 points and forcing overtime. It was Smelkinson's driving basket with 1:25 left that tied it.

"Before the game, Coach showed us a tape of our loss to Howard and how much they were celebrating," Smelkinson said. "When we got down by 10, we thought about the tape and how we felt and we didn't want to feel that way again, so we did anything we could to catch up -- block out, dive for loose balls. Earlier in the game we weren't getting back on defense."

Howard made 10 of 11 shots in the third quarter, including nine straight, to turn a 30-27 halftime deficit into a 50-46 lead after three quarters.

Delorean Hamilton scored 27 points to lead the Lions, but Gregory (17 points), Tim McNulty (16 points) and Thompson (14 points) also contributed heavily.

For Long Reach, sophomore Zach Hines had a breakout game with 19 points and eight rebounds as he picked up the slack for Anthony Gaither, the team's leading scorer who averages 20 points but was held to 16. Hines scored seven in the second overtime.

"I was wide-open because they were focusing on Anthony," Hines said. "This was our biggest game of the year. We needed it."

Long Reach frequently sent Gaither, who grabbed 12 rebounds, to the baseline, but he always was double-teamed.

"We were on fire in the third quarter and if we had played smart and kept in control, we had them," Howard coach Greg Smith said. "But the guys got involved with the emotion of the big crowd, took some poor percentage shots and let it get away. We missed some early free throws that would have helped. We need to hit 70 percent to win."

Guard Ray Hall had 12 points for Long Reach.

"This was out biggest comeback of the year and our best game of the season," said Lightning coach Al Moraz. "I feel like I've been in a war."

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