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Published: Thursday, 3/24/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Rogers excited about first trip to state tourney

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Damond Powell, a 5-foot-11 senior, averages 22.5 points per game for Rogers and was named Ohio’s Division II player of the year. Damond Powell, a 5-foot-11 senior, averages 22.5 points per game for Rogers and was named Ohio’s Division II player of the year.
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With 40.2 seconds remaining in the Division II boys basketball regional final against Rocky River, Rogers coach Earl Morris raised his arms straight up over his head with his hands forming fists.

The Rams coach looked like a heavyweight boxer just after delivering a knockout punch to a defeated challenger.

Even though there was time left in the game, Morris and the Rams, who were leading by nine points, knew they were on their way to what eventually was a 78-68 triumph.

That moment stands as one of the most memorable in Morris' coaching career. Perhaps it is the most significant during a career that extends over three decades, including a dozen as a head coach.

The victory locked up the first trip to the state tournament in Rogers history and for Morris as a head coach.

The Rams (16-5) will meet Dayton Marshall at 2 p.m. Thursday at Ohio State University's Value City Arena.

Clemmye Owens, a 5-10 sophomore, is second
on the team in scoring at 15.7 points per game. Clemmye Owens, a 5-10 sophomore, is second on the team in scoring at 15.7 points per game.
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"This is the first time that the school has made it to the state tournament and everything is real exciting," said Morris.

Morris has a career record of 165-75, which includes a 55-31 mark in four seasons with the Rams. He previously was a head coach at Scott.

Rogers and Marshall appear to be a perfect matchup between two teams that approach the game with the same plan. Both prefer to push the pace and play the game wide open on offense. Both also rely on pressure defense from end line to end line.

Perhaps most significantly, both prefer to challenge their opponents physically with a run-and-gun game that is geared toward wearing down the opposition.

The Rams and Cougars have found success this season with that game plan. Their opponents simply haven't been able to keep up and have run out of gas.

Glandoy Hill, a 6-foot-2 senior, takes a shot against Central Catholic. Hill averages 9.8 points per game for the Rams (16-5). Glandoy Hill, a 6-foot-2 senior, takes a shot against Central Catholic. Hill averages 9.8 points per game for the Rams (16-5).
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"If you're not fit, it will probably be hard to play against us because we run for four quarters," Morris said.

The survivor will probably be determined by the team that best handles the opposition's constant pressure, Morris said.

"When both teams run up and down the floor like we do, I guess the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win the game," Morris said.

Marshall coach Darnell Hoskins, who is in his first season leading the Cougars, anticipates a test of wills between two teams that have shown plenty of determination to reach the state semifinals. He's not expecting either team to back down.

"From what I know, they're an explosive and dangerous team," Hoskins said. "They can run and they're really quick. It's a tailor-made matchup for both teams. It's not a style we're not familiar with."

The Rams have eight seniors, including Damond Powell, the D-II state, district and City League player of the year. Powell, a 5-foot-11 senior, leads the attack by averaging 22.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game.

Clemmye Owens, a talented 5-10 sophomore, ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 15.7 points per outing.

Glandoy Hill, a 6-2 senior, is averaging 9.8 points per game. The Rams have outscored their opponents 76.6 to 63.8.

Markeith Douglas of Rogers, a 6-1 senior, looks to pass against Rocky River in a Division II regional semifi nal. Markeith Douglas of Rogers, a 6-1 senior, looks to pass against Rocky River in a Division II regional semifi nal.
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J.R. Rayford (5-10, sr., guard), Dominique Jackson (6-2, sr., forward), Markeith Douglas (6-1, sr., forward), Darrin Tucker (5-11, jr., guard), and Keandre Gilmer (5-11, so., guard) have provided plenty of depth.

Marshall, which has outscored its competition on average 72.1-51.8, is a team that has relied on underclassmen. Its starting lineup has three sophomores, a junior, and a senior.

However, the Cougars will be without Jordan Watson, a 6-3 senior guard who averages a team-best 17.6 points per game. Watson has been suspended from the team after he was charged with petty theft earlier in the week.

Mark Alstork, a 6-3 sophomore, averages 12.7 points, and Joe Thomasson, a 6-3 junior, averages 10.2 points. Joe Ballard has been good for 9.5 points per game as a key nonstarter. The Cougars knocked off perennial power Dayton Dunbar 54-48 in a regional semifinal before defeating Cincinnati Roger Bacon 74-59 in the final.

The Cougars had lost to Dunbar twice during the regular season.

"It is really special any time you can get to the state tournament if you're a first-year coach or a 20-year coach," Hoskins said. "It's a hard task."

Morris said a late-season loss to Central Catholic, which is playing in the Division I state semifinal, became a catalyst for the Rams to begin playing their best basketball.

"The kids came together and said, 'It's time we start playing together as a team,' " Morris said.

The Rams jelled from that point and they've been unbeatable since.

Morris has steadily reminded his team about the significance of playing in the post-season every step of the way.

"There are a lot of people who don't get this opportunity," Morris said. "I told them all week [prior to the regional final] to take advantage of this because you never know when you'll get back."

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com or 419-724-6302.



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