Lester Clay, the Wilde Lake boys basketball coach who has been in the hospital for tests and treatment since Dec. 18, was relieved last Friday when he finally received a definite diagnosis.
Originally, doctors had feared spinal cancer or multiple sclerosis; instead, Clay has sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that can attack almost any organ, but in Clay's case attacked his spine.
The disease, which has weakened his arms and legs, is treatable with medication. Clay said Monday that he hopes to be recovered enough to play some small role by the time Wilde Lake reaches the basketball playoffs.
He has missed all but the first three games this season.
"It's a lot brighter than it was," the 49-year-old physical education teacher said Monday from his hospital bed at Johns Hopkins Hospital. "At least I have a diagnosis and a way to go."
He expects next to go to a rehabilitation center for physical therapy. He'll have to wait for the drugs to take effect.
"They are not fast-acting drugs, like I'll notice some improvement in a day or so," said Clay, Wilde Lake's coach the past four seasons. "My doctor said I'd improve gradually, a little each week."
Theresa Farson, the secretary to Wilde Lake principal Roger Plunkett, has known Clay for almost 30 years. "We here at Wilde Lake have all breathed a sigh of relief. It's very good news. Lester seems stronger and upbeat now, determined to lick this."
Clay's mentor, Frank Rhodes, who has coached the team in his absence, also was pleased the diagnosis was better than first thought.
Clay was a star basketball player for Rhodes at Atholton in the late 1960s, once scoring 93 points during three playoff games that sent Atholton to the state final four.
"Lester was in a class by himself," Rhodes said. "He was something to watch. He was a coach on the floor and hated to lose. He used to fire up the other kids."
Clay also set the half-mile school record at Atholton, and was a highly successful cross country runner, who finished second at the state meet his senior year when the team won a state title.
"He used to run from his house in Laurel to school every morning for his training," Rhodes said. "He'd have won the state meet, but his shoes were so worn out with holes in them that they fell apart and he had to finish barefoot. He never quit."
Kreider's triumphant return
Not even River Hill coach Tom Schneider knew if his star shooter, Jay Kreider, would be able to play in last Friday's 61-45 upset victory against then No. 17 Glenelg.
"I didn't know until he walked onto the court and handed me a permission form from his doctor," Schneider said.
Kreider, who scored seven points, missed nine games with a broken bone in his wrist. The Hawks lost eight of those games.
"We got an emotional lift when we found out he could play," Schneider said. "He only played about 10 minutes, but hit a three-pointer and a two in the second quarter when Glenelg started to make a run, and we held on for a 27-21 halftime lead."
River Hill has seen a lot of zone defenses since Kreider, a terrific outside shooter, was sidelined. The Hawks have no other outside shooter that compares with him.
"He's a silent leader. His desire and will carry over," Schneider said.
Schneider credited the victory to a strong second-half defensive effort, and an offense that made the extra pass and sank its free throws. "We kept Eric Breland from getting the ball and Glenelg didn't shoot well. They hit five threes, but only seven other field goals."
Schneider also credited John Alascio and Steve Glasgow. "They've really played well the past couple of weeks. Our record is misleading. We've been playing very well. I'm hoping for my seniors we can make a run here at the end of the season."
State championship rings
Most of the Class 1A state championship Oakland Mills football team was on hand to pick up rings commemorating their once-in-a-lifetime achievement during halftime of last Wednesday's boys basketball game.
The rings cost $150 for silver and $300 for gold, but the price seemed well worth it to the players.
Dragons win big one
Matt Woodford's three-pointer at the buzzer allowed the Glenelg Country School Dragons to hand Friends its first loss of the season Jan. 22.
The Dragons (11-5 overall, 4-2 league) had lost to league opponents Park by four points and Chapelgate by one.
"We're rolling now," said coach John Aquila.
Pub Date: 2/03/99