Cumberland Times-News

February 2, 2014

They don’t pass the buck, but they do pass the rock

Mike Mathews
Cumberland Times-News

— It’s really not that easy.

They just make it look like it is.

The Allegany Campers averaged more than 90 points a game again last week, scoring 271 points in wins over Mountain Ridge, Southern and Keyser.

No local opponent — snow, cold temperatures and days off from school included — has been able to derail the Campers. They’ve scored 106 points in a game, 100 and 99 in two others, and 90 or more in seven of the 15 games they’ve played.

And the reason isn’t that they have a few big scorers who are threatening to break every scoring record in the books.

The biggest reason is not because it’s a team full of great shooters, although they do shoot rather well, or that they get so many rebounds they keep shooting until they score, although they do rebound rather well.

The biggest reason is that they’re all good passers.

Get open, and you’ll get the ball many more times than not, and that leads to players moving without the ball well. That was proven again Friday night against Southern when Darquel Jessie scored 38 points on 17 of 21 shooting from the field.

“When we play unselfishly, we can be really good together,’’ coach Tedd Eirich said, “because we have five starters who can score and it doesn’t matter who’s shooting it.”

Guards Mario D’Atri (nine) and Trenton Eirich (five) combined for 14 assists Friday night. Big men Bryce Nightengale, Jessie and Colton Sivic often will pass up 10- or 12-footers and dump a pass to another who is closer to the basket. In the first half, Allegany had nine assists, with seven players having at least one.

The 3-0 week included a 93-60 win over Mountain Ridge on Monday, a 95-61 win over Southern on Friday and an 83-51 win over Keyser on Saturday.

The unselfish Campers may have been at their very best during the third quarter against Southern. It’s not too difficult to score 90 points in a game when you put up 38 in a quarter.

And they did it so quickly. It was a nine-point game (44-35) a minute into the period, and a 27-point game (62-35) three minutes later.

Sure, the Rams helped out with six turnovers in the period, but most of them weren’t unforced. And when the Campers pounce on a free ball, it usually results in a quick two on the other end because they run the court so well.

A team can’t beat Allegany by shutting down one player. Or even two. That’s because, after rounding up Sivic’s 9.9, all five starters have double-figure scoring averages — adding up to 72 points per game.

Sivic had seven rebounds in the first quarter Friday night, and finished 7 for 10 with 15 points and 13 rebounds. The front court of Sivic, Jessie and Nightengale only teamed for 63 points, 25 rebounds and nine blocked shots.

That was simply too much for the undersized, but game, Rams.

These aren’t your grandfather’s Southern Rams. Or even your father’s. Not even your older brother’s.

For decades it seems the Rams controlled tempo and kept the scores in the 50s. Many years they were among the teams with the fewest three-point goals.

Now they aren’t afraid to, as a former coach liked to say, “chuck it from the cheap seats.” And they have the shooters to do it, too, and are averaging 8.3 three-pointers per game, and 9.5 per game in the AMAC. Everyone on the roster has made three-point shots.

With only three subs on the bench, the Rams are trying to prove that Eight is Enough, and they’ve done a pretty good job so far at 8-5 overall, 3-3 and third in the AMAC and No. 4 in the area poll.

It was three-point shooting that helped negate Allegany’s advantages for awhile in the first half and got Southern to within 32-28 in the second quarter. Lucas Ritchie, the area leader in three-point goals (36) and foul shooting (85.7 percent), hit three three-pointers during his 15-point second quarter.

Give the Rams an open look, and they’ve got a good shot and knocking it down. They get a good many open shots when they penetrate, draw the defense, and kick a pass to a waiting bomber at the three-point line.

The Rams hope the uptempo, three-point shooting can help them overcome a lack of both physical and  roster size. When the Rams are hot, they can stick with most any area team. When they cool off, well, not so much. That was the case Friday: Pretty warm in the second quarter, which Allegany won 20-17; Pretty cold in the third, which Southern lost 38-11, although there were more problems than just shooting in the third quarter.

Southern scored 81 points against Allegany in their first meeting in Oakland. Friday night, the Campers did a better defensive job on the perimeter, limiting the Southern penetration and forcing many contested shots.

“The big thing for us is to get penetration and shoot threes, and also get to the foul line,’’ said Southern coach Jon Hegeman, whose team leads the area in three-point goals (108) and foul shooting (80 percent). “If we shoot well, good things happen. If we don’t, it can be a 40-point game, like this one was.”

Actually, it was only 34 points. And the scary part is that’s been about average for the Campers, whose average margin of victory is 31 points. They are averaging 84.4 points and allowing 53.5 after 15 games. Does that tell us how strong Allegany is, or is it an indictment on the strength of the opponents?

Probably both. No one can deny the Campers are awfully strong. But no one can argue the caliber of area basketball is a bit down this year, either.

Having won two league titles before playing a game in February, Allegany appears to be on a mission. St. Maria Goretti is the only team to have solved the Campers, in a 62-51 Christmas tournament win. The closest game of the other 14 was 13 points, the 76-63 win at Fort Hill.

It may be because the Campers have good, long memories.

“I think we were left with a bad taste in our mouths the way the season ended last year,’’ Eirich said. The Campers lost to Brunswick 73-48 in last year’s region final in Hagerstown in a game that the Railroaders dominated from the start. “Our guys remember that.

“And we have goals. One is to get homecourt advantage for the playoffs, which is very important.” Allegany is 30-3 at home the last three seasons. “These kids have that little extra, they have more killer instinct in them. Last year we let up at times and allowed teams to get back into games. The guys this year don’t relax when we get a lead. They keep the pedal down.”

Do they ever. Ask anyone.

Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at mmathews@times-news.com