Dave Appleby lost 20 pounds coaching the Oakland Mills boys basketball team this year.

The Howard County Sun Coach of the Year attributed the weight loss to the stress of coaching.

"Coaching Oakland Mills basketball succeeds where diets fail," hesaid. He also called this year "my most challenging year in coaching."

Appleby, 6-foot-3 and now 190 pounds, began the season with a team perceived to have superior talent.

The Scorpions, coming off their first state championship season, were the odds-on favorite to win their fourth straight county championship and return to the final four at College Park.

They accomplished both goals, but the road toCollege Park was a rocky one.

"It was like walking through a minefield trying not to make any missteps," Appleby said.

The Scorpions, who compiled an 11-3 league record and a 17-8 overall mark, beat Howard by one point, Glenelg by two and Atholton by two twice. Their losses were to Wilde Lake (twice), Thomas Johnson (twice), Bel Air, Mount Hebron and, in the state semifinal, Catonsville.

"We didn't blow people out this year," Appleby said. "Even a number of our 10-point wins were close going into the fourth quarter."

Injuries, illnesses and discipline problems tore at the team's fabric all season.

Star shooting guard Carruthers Gant, who averaged 20 points, played the first two games in December with a sprained right thumb. The Scorpions lost both games.

Premier post player Marc Terry played with asore right shoulder from mid-December to mid-January. Starting pointguard Travis Williams missed four league games with a sprained ankle. And one or two members of the team always seemed to be suffering from the flu.

"A lot of practice time was missed, and the team nevergelled as it might have," Appleby said. "It almost never put four quarters together."

Part of the problem with not gelling was that the starting team was completely new from the year before.

Three starting players -- sophomore Terry (Southwestern), junior Gregg Washington (Mount Saint Joseph) and senior Travis Williams (Wilde Lake) -- had started their high school careers at different schools.

That meant they hadn't played much as a unit, unlike some teams that come tohigh school having played together in the youth league ranks.

"Somehow we overcame everything," Appleby said. "The kids pulled together, and my coaching experience helped. This was a team that needed itsspace, and I gave it to them. I was not as demanding on them as I might have been on other teams."

Appleby's strongest talent as a coach is his management and organization of players. Since he came to Oakland Mills in 1983 he's been able to succeed where others failed.

The team, always loaded with talent since it opened in 1973, had never won a county title before Appleby and had won just one regional title.

His teams have won five county titles, four regional titles and one state title. This year, Oakland Mills became the first team inthe past 20 years to win a fourth straight county title.

The team's record since 1983 is a lofty 147-66.

"I had a lot of fun with this team, but it was tough bringing it together," Appleby said. "I learned a lot about kids this year, and it has improved my ability to manage them."

Appleby, 41, is a floating elementary school guidancecounselor when he's not coaching basketball at Oakland Mills or varsity baseball at Mount Hebron.

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