The Towson Center was rocking over a local basketball rivalry last night in a way that looked like deja vu -- although not to the young students from Towson State or Loyola College.
They were maybe 6 years old when Towson and the University of Baltimore, which doesn't play intercollegiate sports any longer, met in a heart-stopping series in 1976-77.
Towson and UB played each other five times that year and the games were decided by a total of 12 points. Towson, coached by Vince Angotti, won four of those over Frank Szymanski's Bees.
The atmosphere was much the same last night as Loyola beat Towson, 85-84, in the final seconds. Earlier this season, Towson beat Loyola, 62-60.
Just as those Division II local rivals did 14 years ago when they filled the 5,000-seat arena, the young men of both teams last night, before a crowd that looked larger than the announced 2,560, competed with ferocity for 40 minutes.
Loyola's Tracy Bergan and Towson's Terrance Jacobs -- both of whom were, incidentally, high school football quarterbacks, Bergan at DeMatha, Jacobs at Southern -- gave heroic efforts. Bergan scored the winning basket on a 10-foot jumper with 12 seconds left. The loss ended Towson's eight-game winning streak.
"It makes for a really good rivalry," said Towson coach Terry Truax.
"We wanted to show people that there's good basketball played in Baltimore," said Loyola's Tom Schneider, "and I think we did that. Nobody asked for their money back after this one."
The pity is that Loyola and Towson are in different conferences. Loyola is in the Metro Atlantic, Towson in the East Coast Conference. For one exciting, crowd-pleasing evening, though, we were treated to the kind of spirited neighborhood battle we hadn't seen around here for a while.
* Look for David Robinson to apologize for his critical remarks about John Thompson in GQ Magazine. No doubt he'll say his comments about the Georgetown basketball coach were taken out of context.
I'm disappointed in David. Normally he's a very classy young man. Imagine complaining that Thompson, who coached Robinson in the Seoul Olympics, has to have things done his way! What great coach doesn't? Even if Thompson did tell Robinson he couldn't play (Thompson doesn't remember saying that) David should understand that coaches say things like that to motivate players. The most surprising thing about this whole incident is that the criticism comes from a player who spent four years taking orders at the U.S. Naval Academy.
* Now that Pete Rose's Hall of Fame dream is shattered, we are going to hear cries of outrage -- even though the ballot guidelines specify that character is to be taken into account. Rose is barred from the game for life for betting on baseball and did time for tax evasion. If people want Rose in the Hall of Fame, they'll have to get the character rule changed. Ruth and Cobb had faults, and so did many other Hall of Famers, but they weren't convicted felons and they weren't barred from baseball.
* Crown Central chairman Henry Rosenberg, a Hobart grad, has done a terrific job as chairman of the first Atlantic Coast Conference football banquet ever to be held in Baltimore. The affair will take place Feb. 15 at The Omni. All the ACC coaches plus the conference's all-star team (including Maryland wide receiver Barry Johnson) will be there. For tickets -- only a few remain -- call John McGeehan of the Touchdown Club at 296-7500.
* Like many, I'm saddened by the death of ESPN's Pete Axthelm last weekend at the age of 47. Everyone knew Pete was an exceptional talent when he graduated from Yale in 1965 and immediately became the racing writer for the New York Herald-Tribune, which then had the best sports staff in the country. I met Pete the following year, when Kauai King went for the Triple Crown and ran fourth to Amberoid in the Belmont. Pete never changed. To me he always seemed a writer rather than a TV guy, maybe because he never fell in love with himself.