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Villa Maria on brink in Hoop-It-Up Defending Top Gun champ must win from losers' bracket BASKETBALL


Villa Maria, the defending men's Top Gun champion in Baltimore's Hoop-It-Up tournament, found itself in a miserable situation in the first round yesterday. Not only was Villa Maria facing two-time defending New York Hoop-It-Up champion Red Roses, but it also had only two players for the three-on-three game.

Marty Johnson, Villa Maria's team captain, dropped off leading scorer Jeffrey Robinson before entering Lot B at Camden Yards to park. After finding that lot closed, Johnson had to circle the stadium to park in Lot D off Russell Street.

By the time Johnson stepped onto the court 15 minutes late, Villa Maria was down, 10-0. Red Roses won, 16-6, and placed Villa Maria on the brink of an early exit in the double-elimination tournament.

But Villa Maria won its next three games to make it into the final eight of the losers' bracket in Division I of Top Gun.

"It's tough because I don't think we should have had to play at 9:30 this morning," said Johnson, who played at Towson State. "Teams that lost early last year are getting to play at 12 and 1. I guess Murphy's Law was in effect for us today. There's no doubt that we could have beat [Red Roses]. I don't think they drew up the tournament well this year at all."

If both teams continue to win, Villa Maria will face Red Roses in the semifinals today. The men's Top Gun final will be broadcast live from Court 1 on Channel 2 at noon along with the long-range shootout and slam-dunk contest.

Red Roses finished third at the Hoop-It-Up national tournament in Dallas last year. Coached by Mike Worrall, Red Roses also has finished sixth and fifth nationally since 1990 and won the Philadelphia Hoop-It-Up tournament two years ago.

Drawing players from a region that spans 100 miles from eastern to central Pennsylvania, Red Roses has been an established organization for nine years.

Its three starters -- Brian Dean, Brian White and Glenn Noack -- all are 6 feet 5 and run a two-guard offense with White as the post man.

White, 28, was a Division II All-American twice at Mansfield State, and Noack, 29, left Bloomsburg State as the school's second-leading scorer.

Dean, 31, who played at Penn State from 1980-84, uses a flat-footed set shot and was the most effective long-range shooter of the tournament yesterday. In a 16-15 win over Mr. Men's Shoes, Dean was 6-for-9 behind the two-point arc for 12 points.

"We play if you get open, shoot the two. If not, get the ball into Brian," Dean said. "When we're on, especially from the outside, the game will be over right away."

Red Roses finished the day 3-0, but Noack twisted his left ankle in the team's last game. He is expected to compete today.

Dean has played for Red Roses for nine years and sees both similarities and differences between organized basketball and street ball.

"There really isn't any difference in the level of competition because it is the same caliber," Dean said. "But here it's a lot more physical. The elbowing and shoving here would not be allowed in the college game."

In the women's Top Gun division, Footlocker Three, the defending champion, breezed into the quarterfinals. It defeated Higher Dimensions, 16-5, and Team Arizona, 16-2, and will open against Peace today.

The women's Top Gun final will be on Court 1 at 2 p.m.

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