When the Towson High School boys varsity basketball team meets Dulaney High School for local bragging rights on the court at Goucher College on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m., the Generals will be seeking their first win over the Lions "in five or six years," according to senior guard Colby Hogan.
Although Dulaney has been far and away the better team during that span, Towson has something going for it that its archrivals cannot bring to this year's battle — sage advice from members of their school's state championship basketball team.
"It was inspiring for the state champs from Towson to actually come back and talk to us," said Hogan, a Ruxton resident, referring to a ceremony during a game against Hereford on Dec. 13 honoring the 1963 state champion Generals.
The five former players who participated in the event — Jimmy Hall, Ralph Lee, Lou Frazier, Bill Thomas and Edgar Smith — were on hand for a celebration of the team guided by legendary coach Randy Walker that defeated Bladensburg High, 75-60, more than 50 years ago to become the first Baltimore County squad to earn a state basketball title.
To open the proceedings, the veteran players, wearing maroon-and-white hats with a "T" on the front, were introduced before the game to a rousing ovation from Hereford and Towson fans.
At halftime, before taking a few practice shots of their own, the former Generals posed for a photo with a state championship banner while holding plaques bearing a vintage team photo and names of all 12 players.
Directly after the Generals' decisive 72-58 triumph over Hereford, the older players, now in their late 60s, joined their younger brethren in the locker room.
Each of the 1963 Generals took turns giving the current players advice, most of it things that they had probably heard before.
Considering the source, however, those tips hardly fell on deaf ears.
"They said to focus on playing together and being a team," Hogan said, "and that we should always have each other's backs."
Towson coach Tim Gavin said the impact on his young charges was obvious, both during and after the game.
"It was a magical night for us, the best we've played in my four years [coaching]," Gavin said. "They [the former Generals] were absolutely a huge factor in how well we played. The kids really wanted to put on a show for those guys."
Gavin said his players paid close attention when their elders addressed the team in the locker room.
"You could have heard a pin drop when they were speaking," he said.
Moreover, there was an immediate carryover effect on Gavin's team at practice the next morning.
"It was a lot to ask of the kids after having three games in three days," Gavin said about a required 8:30 a.m. gathering before a 9 a.m. practice session. "Usually, they're yawning and stuff, and some guys will be late," he added. "But they all beat me there. Everyone was ready to roll."
Whether the glow from event will help the Generals against a rival as formidable as Dulaney is still uncertain.
The Lions, after all, are off to a quick start with wins over Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference contender Boys' Latin and fellow county Class 4A power Perry Hall.
If anything, it's the idea that teamwork can help overcome overwhelming odds when Towson, which has split its first four games, tries to match up with talented Dulaney.
"Dulaney is chock full of athletes who like to get to the rim," Gavin said.
One of the players assigned to prevent the Lions from their goal is Kenny Hill, a 6-foot-2 senior from Lutherville who "is playing the best he's ever played," according to Gavin.
"Kenny's really playing tough and physical," the coach added.
Hill, who hopes to attend Drexel University next fall, said he and his teammates were impressed by the visit from the state champs.
"They did something that's only been done once," he said, "and we want to try to live up [to their legacy]."