Oxon Hill boys leave no room for doubt After two heartbreaking defeats, Clippers win state title in convincing fashion
Mar. 16, 2000
Chris Murray
Staff Writer




For the previous two seasons, the University of Maryland's Cole Field House has not been one of Billy Lanier's favorite places.

In those two seasons, the 33-year-old Oxon Hill coach has seen his team suffer two heartbreaking losses in the Class 4A state championship game--a five-overtime defeat to Gaithersburg in 1998 and last year's last-second loss to Lake Clifton of Baltimore City.

"I hate this place," Lanier said after last year's defeat.

Prior to last Saturday's 4A state title game against Quince Orchard, Lanier told his Clippers that their destiny was in their own abilities and not fate or the fickle will of the basketball gods who supposedly haunt high school basketball teams at Cole.

"I told them that there are no ghosts in here. We created everything here [in the last two years] We made the mistakes. Let's not do that tonight," Lanier said. "I told them to lets believe in us. Every time we've walked on that court, we've been the better basketball team. There are things in life that don't go your way, but you keep fighting. That's what I'm proud of and we got what we deserved."

Oxon Hill finally exorcised the evils spirits of those two previous state finals appearances with an emphatic 60-42 victory over Quince Orchard of Montogmery County to win the first-ever state championship for the southern Prince George's County school.

"It feels good for two years we've been going to the state championship. This year we finally pulled it off," said senior center Michael Sweetney. "We had to win it."

Added point guard Richard Little. "[Lanier] just told us to believe. It doesn't matter what happened in the past. Cole Field House is not haunted. Just come out play hard and we'll win."

In front of 8,500 fans at Cole Field House, 6-foot-9 senior center Michael Sweetney was simply awesome in the low post. He dominated the Cougars by scoring 23 points, pulling down 12 rebounds and dishing out four assists. What made his performance even more remarkable was that Sweetney played with a swollen right ankle.

"Gutty," said Lanier of Sweetney's performance. "His ankle was killing him. His foot was as big as a golf ball. He flat out refused to come out. He hurt his ankle in the last against Southern. He just played so hard and so he deserved this [championship]. Michael came out and exploited [Quince Orchard]."

Added Little, who had a game-high seven assists: "[Sweetney] is nothing but a soldier. His ankle was bothering him the whole game and he came through for us."

Sweetney himself said his strong play came from the desire to win the championship after losing in dramatic fashion the two previous. For him the game was really quite simple--just put the ball in the basket.

"It wasn't easy in the [low post], I wanted it so bad. I had to play hard through my ankle injury," Sweetney said. "We play to hard until we saw all zeroes. I had to play hard throughout the entire game."

But Sweetney wasn't the only hero for the Clippers. Junior Phil Goss also lit up the Cougars by scoring 18 points. He helped Oxon Hill further tighten the grip on its first championship by knocking down four three-pointers.

"I was feeling it. All I was saying [to myself] was just snap my fingers and snap my wrist," Goss said.

Oxon Hill jumped out to 9-0 lead and never relinquished it. Quince Orchard came to within one point of the lead at 19-18 on a basket by Greg Rector with 5:08 left in the second quarter. But the Clippers, on the strength of Sweetney's scoring, went on a 14-4 scoring run to make the score 33-22 at intermission. In the second half, Quince Orchard could never cut the lead below double-digits.

"[Sweetney] was the difference," said Quince Orchard head coach Rick Dorsey. "We didn't take the ball down low as much as we normally do and we got out of our game a little earlier than we normally would have."

For the game, the Cougars shot just 32 percent from the field and just 26 percent in the second half. Javon Saulter led Quince Orchard with 12 points.

While the Oxon Hill players and coaches, who stood on the press table and greeted their fans, could probably feel some empathy for what the Quince Orchard players were going through on the losing end of the stick, they were simply happy that it was finally their time to celebrate. After coming up short three times during the 1950s and twice in the 1990s, the Clippers students, fans and alumni don't have to say, "Wait till next year" anymore. For the Clippers, this is next year.

"Words can't express the way everybody feels," Little said. "All the seniors have been working hard for three years and it finally came true."

MPSSAA BASKETBALL

STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS

BOYS SCORES

CLASS 4A

Oxon Hill 60, Quince Orchard 42

CLASS 3A

Paint Branch 67, Randallstown 50

CLASS 2A

Aberdeen 50, Gwynn Park 48

CLASS 1A

Crisfield 42, Pikesville 37

 

GIRLS SCORES

CLASS 4A

Arundel 61, Oxon Hill 55

CLASS 3A

DuVal 41, Milford Mill 33

CLASS 2A

Dunbar (Balt.) 53, Linganore 36

CLASS 1A

Allegany 45, Glenelg 36

 

Today

Baseball

McDonogh at Riverdale Baotist, 4 p.m.

Softball

Holy Child at Seton, 4:30 p.m.

Friday, March 17

Boys Basketball

Prince Geroge's All-Star Classic at PGCC

Game I, 7 p.m.

Game II, 8:30 p.m.

Girls Basketball

Prince George's All-Star at PGCC, 5:30 p.m.

 

Tuesday, March 21

Baseball

Surrattsville at South River, 3:30 p.m.

Annapolis at Gwynn Park, 3:30 p.m.

Softball

Northwestern at Oxon Hill, 3:30 p.m.

Laurel at Bowie, 3:30 p.m.

High Point at Suitland, 3:30 p.m.

DuVal at Potomac, 3:30 p.m.

Friendly at Crossland, 3:30 p.m.

Annapolis at Gwynn Park, 3:30 p.m.

Riverdale at Seton, 3:30 p.m.

Largo at Parkdale, 7 p.m.

 

Wednesday, March 22

Baseball

St. Mary's at Riverdale Baptist, 3:45 p.m.

Softball

St. Mary's -Ryken at Riverdale Baptist, 3:45 p.m.

Seton at Arundel, 4 p.m.