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Commentary: Winning players make winning teams

It somehow doesn't seem right that Dan Mullen's athletic career at South Carroll should end with a loss considering he's arguably the biggest winner that school's ever seen.

Hard to see the multi-sport athletes on Century's girls basketball team finish the season with a loss, too. Alice Mercer & Co. simply seem to win at everything they do.

Of course this is sports and, except for a very few, every season ends with a loss. Better to remember all those wins than that last defeat from the types of players coaches love having on their teams.

Mullen is the only player in Carroll history to make the boys basketball state tournament three times during his career.

The point guard helped the Cavaliers to three regional championships, two county titles and a 77-25 mark over the past four seasons, three of which ended at the University of Maryland's Comcast Center.

He had a pretty good run as a standout running back and defensive back for the SC football team, too. The Cavaliers went 26-9 over his three varsity seasons, qualifying for the postseason in all three. He was a part of a 10-0 regular season, won a county championship and played in a pair of regional finals.

Mullen is one of only a handful of players from Carroll to make three different football postseason appearances - and none of them also made the state basketball final four three times.

"You look up high school athlete, you should have a picture of him right there," SC boys basketball coach Doug Goff said last week. "He's the epitome of what you want as a scholar-athlete. Good grades, good student, top-of-the-line kid.

"Star on the football team, star on the basketball team. He just does everything right."

Goff gave Mullen a lot of credit for this season's run to county and regional titles. Not as much was expected of this team after losing three starters, including the Times' 2011 Player of the Year, to graduation.

"Dan is definitely the nucleus of our team," Goff said. "The guys are comfortable to play on the team with a star like Danny because he's such a humble, hard-working, positive guy, and I think that helped us jell quicker and why we got to this point."

Assistant coach Jim Shea called Mullen "the engine that makes us go."

(Of course, it's tough to make a team go when the other team simply holds the ball and refuses to play offense as Lake Clifton did for long stretches on Friday. That nonsense is why college basketball went to a shot clock three decades ago. Maryland high schools need to enact a 35-second clock before another embarrassment like Friday's can take place.)

While Mullen helped his teams put up a remarkable winning percentage of 75.1 over seven varsity seasons in two sports, some of the Century girls basketball players have been winning at an even higher clip.

Mercer has played 11 varsity seasons and no doubt will begin her 12th - the most possible - now that basketball season has wrapped and she can start practicing with Century's girls lacrosse team.

Her field hockey, basketball and lacrosse teams are 171-47 over that time, for a 78.4 winning percentage. She has played on four county champions, seven region champions, four state runners-up and two state titlists.

She had a lot of winning company. Basketball teammates Haley Bordner and Alyssa Dixon were key components of a state champion volleyball team in the fall, while classmate Angela Flister is another lacrosse standout who has been a part of three state final runs in that sport, and Allyson Belknap plays lacrosse and also had a successful soccer run.

Century coach Joel Beard has only three "basketball-only" players, which is the way he likes it.

"I don't want my kids just to play basketball ... you don't have to go out and play 101 games or be an AAU full-time player," Beard told the Times last week. "It's athletes. It also creates being a competitor. You've got to do things a certain way and if you do you'll be successful."

Successful they have been. And success in high school sports can translate to success in life, where the stakes can be just a bit higher.

"I'm glad he's going to continue his career and go on to the Naval Academy," Goff said of Mullen. "He's the perfect guy to represent us in the armed forces."

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