Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Pats storm from behind, nip Cadets

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tom fedor⁄the gazette
Thomas Johnson’s Max Fisher fouls Frederick’s Donald Dawson at the basket during Monday night’s Intra-City game.
No one on the Thomas Johnson High boys’ basketball team could pinpoint the exact reason for their atrociously sluggish start Monday night at Frederick.

Maybe it was nerves or an overkill of gusto? Whatever the case TJ trailed by double digits in the middle of the first quarter. Regaining their composure the Patriots fought their way back and employed a 20-2 fourth quarter run to exact revenge for last Feb.’s 76-74 loss with a 71-59 victory over their cross-town rivals.

‘‘It’s always a big game against Frederick,” TJ’s Steve Chase said. ‘‘We grew up together and all have played together. Everyone was up and I think we just had a little too much nerves. When everyone calmed down we started playing good.”

Following a disastrous start the Patriots (8-6) inched their way back in the second quarter before ultimately evening the score 47-47 at the conclusion of the third.

With 3:20 remaining guard Kevin Cross (13 points, three assists and four steals) was fouled while draining an acrobatic layup that squared the game at 57-57 and brought the Patriot faithful to their feet. Cross completed the conventional 3-point play as TJ took their first lead 58-57. Moments later a Guy Barnes lay in gave the Cadets their last lead and points of the evening.

The Patriots dominated for the rest of the evening. As the seconds ticked away, Frederick was forced to send TJ to the foul line.

In the final minute Cross, Shea Fisher, Denzel Randolph and Dwayne Jenkins went 8 for 9 from the foul line to put the game out of reach. Fisher had a double double with 10 points and 10 boards. Randolph and Jenkins each added 13 points.

‘‘Someone said we were down 17, I didn’t know it was that big,” Patriots’ head coach Chris Wolfe said.

‘‘It’s pretty sweet. Making our foul shots down the stretch helped with that. Defensively we were a little more disciplined and did a better job in the second half limiting them to one shot.”

The Cadets could not have asked for a better start. Frederick rocketed to a 10-2 advantage and led 20-11 after the first period. However the wheels began to fall off in the second. TJ cut the Cadets lead to two in the final two minutes before intermission. D.J. Whitney and E.J. Logan hit consecutive threes to close out the half 34-26.

Frederick relied on Barnes in the second half. Twenty of his game-high 27 points came after halftime. He scored all of his team’s 12 fourth quarter points but was ultimately disappointed with the evening. Donald Dawson chipped in with 14 points.

‘‘I just go out there and do what I have to do,” Barnes said. ‘‘I’ll do whatever my team needs. Unfortunately we didn’t get the win tonight. We just have to keep on pushing.”

At 6-11 overall and 3-2 within the Monocacy Valley Athletic League’s Piedmont Conference, last year’s Class 2A West Region champs are searching for consistency. They’re still learning how to put together a complete game.

‘‘We had too many breakdowns defensively,” Frederick head coach Arnie McGaha said. ‘‘In the third quarter especially we had the lead to 10, then they got it even at the end of the quarter just based on the poor defensive effort on our part. That’s what disappointing because we’re making some nice strides as a team. Individuals are getting better we’re just struggling to put the whole piece together.”