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1996 All-Metro boys basketball teams

Coach of the year

William Wells, St. Frances: Many still don't know where St. Frances is located, but Wells and the panthers had a hugh impact on the area's basketball scene this season, earning their first No. 1 ranking and winning their second straight Catholic League regular-season and tournament championships.

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St. Francis, located in a small building in East Baltimore -- an area dominated by traditional powers Dunbar and Lake Clifton doesn't have a gym and practices on a court at a nearby elementary school that is nearly half the size of the court at the University of Baltimore, where it plays its home games. Wells adapted his team, employing a patient half-court game that wore down opponents with excellent interior passing and strong transition. St. Frances has a 51-9 record the past two seasons. "I'm more proud of this team than the others," said Wells, a 1968 graduate of Towson State. "We had our ups and downs, but we always found a way to win. This is not a quitting team." St. Frances is the first team other than Dunbar, Lake Clifton or

Southern-Baltimore to be ranked No. 1 since Goretti in 1986-87. In nine seasons Wells has a career record of 198-80, including three Catholic League Tournament titles.

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Player of the year

Mark Karcher, St Francis, junior, forward: Karcher had tremendous expections when he arrived at St. Frances as a freshman, having played competitively in various unlimited leagues with and against some of Baltimore's current collegiate and professional stars. Karcher has met and perhaps exceeded those expectations, winning Player of the Year in the Catholic League the last two seasons, and becoming the first underclassmen in many years to be named The Sun's All-Metro Boys Player of the Year. Karcher, 6 feet 5, led the Panthers to their first No. 1 ranking, averaging 24.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists for the two-time Catholic League regular-season and tournament champions. In the tournament final against Calvert Hall, he broke a 60-60 tie with a three-pointer, and then followed with a three-point play in lifting the Panthers to 71-67 victory. The co-MVP of the tournament along with teammate Alphonso Jones, Karcher was the MVP of the Southeast bracket at the First National Bank Charm City Classic, scoring the first seven points for St. Frances in the final quarter as it rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit for a 63-59 win over Strake Jesuit (Texas). Karcher moved to his natural position at the wing and improved his shooting range, but his unique court awareness combined with his scoring and passing ability belies his age 16. "None of the top players in the city could have come in and do what Mark has done at St. Frances," said St. Frances coach William Wells. "He's a big-time player who just happens to be playing at a small school." Karcher, who was the MVP of the St. Matthews Tournament in Canada, made the all-tournament team at the Gonzaga (D.C.) Classic and the McDonald's Classic in Erie, Pa. Later this month, Karcher will be a member of a team with other top high school players representing the United States at a 17-team international tournament in Germany.

The first team

Irving Conwell, Oakland Mills, senior, guard: Conwell's knowledge of basketball complements his talents on the court. Conwell, 6 feet 2, produced a remarkable year for the Scorpions, averaging 25.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 2.5 assists to earn Howard County Player of the Year honors for a second consecutive season. A second-team All-Metro pick last season, Conwell scored a school-record 43 points against Howard. Conwell is a natural scorer, virtually able to score from any spot on the court and is active on both ends. "Overall, Irving is the best to ever play in Howard County," said Hammond coach Mike Mongelli. Delaware and George Washington are among the colleges that are interested in Conwell.

Josh Davalli, Gibbons, senior, forward: Davalli opted not to follow his brother, Jake, and attend Calvert Hall, where Jake was a former first-team All-Metro pick, and the decision was Gibbons' gain. Davalli, 6 feet 6, averaged 20.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists, earning All City/County first-team honors and was named to the All-Catholic League first team for a second straight season. Mainly playing on the outside his first two seasons, Davalli added some bulk to play inside, where he was more aggressive yet maintained his touch from the perimeter (he hit a school-record 92 three-pointers). "He's an intelligent and hard-working player who has greatly improved each year," said Gibbons coach Brian Moorhouse. Davalli, who's a member of the National Honor Society, has a 3.6 GPA. Army, Bucknell, Dayton, Maryland, Navy, Penn State, Towson State and UMBC are recruiting Davalli.

Boo Diggs, Annapolis, junior, center: After an impressive summer, Diggs was one of the area's premier post players. Diggs, 6 feet 7, averaged 13 points and 10.4 rebounds in the playoffs, leading the Panthers to the state 4A semifinals after a five-year drought. Diggs, the Anne Arundel County Player of the Year, became the first player in 20 seasons to lead the county in scoring (20.5 points) and rebounding (11.5) during the regular season. Athletic and quick in the paint, Diggs, who had a season-high 34 points and 21 rebounds against North County, was the perfect complement to the Panthers' transition game. "He's missing one element from being a total player," said Annapolis coach John Brady. "As soon as he gets a perimeter game, he can be a major Division I player. He's one of the most clever players I've ever coached."

Juan Dixon, Calvert Hall, junior, guard: When the fourth quarter arrived, Dixon became unstoppable at times, rallying Calvert Hall to victory on many occasions. Dixon, 6 feet 2, averaged 21.9 points and 4.4 rebounds, leading the Cardinals to a second consecutive MIAA A Conference championship. An All-City/County first-team pick, Dixon was also named first-team All-Catholic League as Calvert Hall finished runner-up to St. Frances for the second straight season. In the Catholic League Tournament final, Dixon led all scorers with 26 points. Dixon gave opposing teams headaches with his pin-point accuracy from the perimeter and silky moves to the basket. "The way Juan goes, Calvert Hall goes," said Calvert Hall coach Mark Amatucci. "The way he practices, even during the warm-ups, Juan makes the difference."

John Hemsley, Southern-Balto., senior, forward: Some thought Hemsley didn't have the type of the season expected of one who's possibly the area's most sought-after senior, but Hemsley did more for Southern by doing less this season. Hemsley, 6 feet 6, averaged 17.1 points, 8.3 rebunds and 4.5 assists as Southern was ranked nationally by USA Today for the entire season. He didn't have to score as much this season because of his teammates' improved play. Possessing explosive moves to the basket, Hemsley also can score from the perimeter. "There were some games that if Johnny had just scored and not done some of the other things, we wouldn't have been as successful," said Southern coach Meredith Smith. "I think that's a true testament to his character and him as a true team player." Hemsley has narrowed his choices to Clemson, Georgetown, Maryland, Miami and Pittsburgh.

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Dedric Galloway, Southern-Balto., senior, guard: The unsung hero for Southern last season, Galloway was all business this season, not talking to the media until season's end. His play spoke volumes, however, as he led the Bulldogs in scoring (18.9) and averaged 6.2 assists and 5.7 rebounds, helping them to their third state championship in four seasons. A first-team All-City/County selection, Galloway, 6 feet 2, helped open the inside for Southern with his three-point accuracy and strong drives to the basket. "He has been consistent for us last season and this season," said Southern coach Meredith Smith. "With him and Marlin Wise, they are one of the country's top backcourts." Dayton, East Carolina and Temple are among the schools recruiting Galloway.

Reginald Johnson, Southwestern, senior, guard: There were many times during Johnson's sophomore season that he played timid. That wasn't the case this season for the 6-foot-2 point guard, who averaged 20.4 points, 11.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds for the Sabers. Despite his team losing four of its final five games, Johnson was consistent all season for Southwestern with his passing and scoring. An All-City/County first-team selection, he could take a defender aggressively to the basket as well as score from the perimeter. "He's an outstanding guard," said Southwestern coach Terry Leverett. "He works hard each game and every day, even during the off-season." Johnson has attracted attention from Iowa, Iowa State and Villanova.

Alphonso Jones, St. Frances, senior, guard: Teammate Mark Karcher may be the heart and soul of St. Frances, but Jones was the lightning bolt that got the area's No. 1 team moving. Jones, 6 feet, averaged 18.8 points, 7.1 assists and 6.7 steals, and was co-MVP of the Catholic League Tournament. A first-team All-City/County and Catholic League selection, Jones' tremendous quickness spearheaded St. Frances' transition game and kept opponents honest in the half-court with his three-point shooting. "He takes us to another level with his speed," said St. Frances coach William Wells. Rutgers and Winthrop are among the schools interested in Jones.

Tommy Polley, Dunbar, senior, forward: Many thought Dunbar would struggle this season with Polley as the only returning starter, which was all the motivation Polley needed. Polley, 6 feet 5, led the Poets to a fourth straight state title, averaging 20.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 8.1 assists. Named the co-Player of the Year for the All-City/County team, Polley was the leader for Dunbar, which won the Baltimore City title. Quick and aggressive around the basket, Polley always made something happen with his scoring or passing. "He has the heart of a lion," said Dunbar coach Paul Smith. "He refuses to lose." Possibly the area's premier athlete, Polley, The Sun's Defensive Player of the Year in football this past fall, has won six state titles during his four-year varsity career. Polley will attend Florida State on a football scholarship, where he also plans to play basketball.

Player of the Year: Mark Karcher, St. Frances

Coach of the Year: William Wells, St. Frances

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Picking the teams The Baltimore Sun 1996 All-Metro Boys Basketball Teams were selected by Derek Toney after consultation with staff writers and area coaches.

Pub Date: 3/16/96


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