Southern of Baltimore's Alphonso Hawes never has been to Cole Field House, the site of this year's state championships.
Yesterday at Southwestern, the 6-6 junior forward did everything he could to change that.
Hawes led all scorers with 23 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead the fourth-ranked Bulldogs (18-5) to a 69-55 win over the sixth-ranked Sabers (17-6).
Southern will visit No. 3 Walbrook, the top seed, at 7 p.m. tomorrow for the rite to represent Region III in the Class 3A state semifinals at the University of Maryland.
"I've never been to Cole Field House in my life, but we're on our way now," said Hawes. "Walbrook is a tough team, but I think we'll be ready for them."
Third-seeded Southern's Damon Cason, playing for the first time since he broke his nose in a game against Carver on Feb. 17, added eight points for the Bulldogs.
"He hasn't played in awhile and he's only had one practice, so I thought he did exceptionally well under the circumstances," said Southern coach Meredith Smith.
With the score tied 8-8 after the first quarter, Cason led Southern on a 9-0 run that gave the Bulldogs a 17-8 lead with 6 minutes, 8 seconds left in the first half.
The 6-1 junior guard had two assists and a driving layup during the run, and also helped to break Southwestern's tenacious press.
The second-seeded Sabers never recovered from the run, failing to get within six points of the lead for the remainder of the game.
"We came out flat," said Southwestern coach Terry Leverette. "The guys who had been scoring didn't score, and we were behind the whole game. You can't have that against a good team like Southern."
Senior center Milton Nichols led Southwestern with 14 points.