In an age when the three-point shot and up-tempo basketball have given the smaller player a more important role, Shawn Soyars and Richard Abrams may have taken the game back 20 years.
In Tuesday's High School Summer Basketball League championships at Pasadena's Lake Waterford Park, the twin towers combined for 51 points and 25 rebounds, enabling Arundel (10-2) to complete its rags-to-riches success story by downing Meade Village, 89-81.
Soyars, a slender 6-foot-4 forward, bagged 31 points (20 in the first half) while grabbing 15 rebounds. Abrams, a 6-5 space-eating center, added 20 and 10, respectively.
"Our big men were definitely the key to the game," said Arundel coach Greg Proctor Sr. "We knew we had to get the ball down there to them in order to win it."
Last season, the Wildcats won just three of 10 regular-season games. In 1992, they placed second in the Blue Division behind Glen Burnie (6-1), posting a 5-2 mark.
In tournament play, Arundel downed the Eagles (Northeast), Glen Burnie, last year's champion Flying Admirals (Severn) and the Bulldogs (Southern) before Tuesday's title matchup.
"I have to admit that we did start [the tournament] kind of slow. We didn't act like we wanted it that much," said Proctor. "But after the first couple of wins, we began to act like we wanted it.
"I think we snuck up on everybody this year. I had to keep telling them to think positive. I'm a [Army] drill instructor, and I had to tell them that there's no such word as 'can't.' "
Motivation didn't seem to be a problem on Tuesday, as Arundel went on a 14-2 tear late in the first half to take a 38-25 lead with three minutes remaining. Soyars tallied 10 points during the span, as George Epps (10 points) and Kevin Higgins (eight) each added a bucket during the pivotal stretch.
Meade (12-1), 1991 runners-up, held the lead briefly, 4-2, on a Joe Carpenter (18 points) layup. Before Arundel's big run, game-high scorer Derrick Barrett (34 points) kept his team in the running with a blend of quick driving layups, outside jumpers and nifty passes.
Even with Barrett's heroics, Meade found it hard to keep up on the defensive end, especially without swingman Tyrone "Stick" Jones, known for his quick hands and ability to start fast-breaks.
"If we had Stick in the game, that would have been another 18 or 20 points we could have used," Meade guard William Brooks said of Jones, who rang up 22 points in a losing effort in last year's championship game.
Midway through the second half, Meade whittled a 57-44 Arundel lead down to 60-57, courtesy of Barrett's nine points, including a long three-pointer and a spectacular double-pump layup over Higgins.
"[In the beginning of the season] I knew we had just as much talent as anybody in the league," said Soyars, a Crofton resident who is contemplating transferring to Arundel for his junior year from national powerhouse DeMatha. He was a second-stringer on the Stags' junior varsity team this past winter.
"You can tell that Shawn is going to be a good player. You look at him and you can tell that he isn't scared or tentative. He goes after the ball," said Gerald Moore, Arundel High's varsity coach.
Said Abrams, a second-team All-County selection last winter, "I think playing in this league will help us this season."