Standout junior guard Mitch Guest says "Gopher Pride" is red-hot at Glen Burnie, where visitors are greeted these days by the school sign on Baltimore/ Annapolis Boulevard that reads: "Region Basketball Champs."
No. 10 Glen Burnie won an improbable Class 4A East region title Friday, 70-69, at Thomas Johnson in Frederick to advance to its first state semifinal in boys basketball since 1994.
The Gophers (19-5) will play Magruder (21-3) of Montgomery County at 7 tonight at the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland.
"It's been crazy around school," said Guest, who calmly made four free throws in the final 28 seconds Friday. "Everybody's got 'Gopher Pride' now. It's wild."
Other than Mike Rudd, a former Glen Burnie player and assistant coach before becoming head coach seven years ago, and his players, you would have been hard-pressed to find anyone else who thought the Gophers could win at defending champion Thomas Johnson.
Thomas Johnson was 23-0 and it was the final home game for its coach, Tom Dickman, the state's all-time winningest public school coach with 592 wins and seven state titles. Dickman is leaving after 29 seasons to coach Hood College.
"Their fans were stunned," said Guest. "It was like their fans were just sitting their for five minutes after the game. They didn't even move."
Three busloads of red-and-white-clad Glen Burnie fans made the trip to Thomas Johnson.
"We must have had 300 fans there and they stormed the court after we won," Rudd said. "It was just insane. When the clock ran out, the party was on."
Glen Burnie athletic director Bruce Sider beat the Gophers' bus home Friday night and put the sign up in front of the school. Sider and an additional 100 fans were waiting in the parking lot chanting, "Comcast Center" when the bus arrived.
Glen Burnie High principal David Hill declared today "Spirit Day" at Glen Burnie. The students are encouraged to wear red and white, and all spring sports practices are off so the students, faculty and coaches can attend tonight's game.
Admission to Comcast Center is $8, with children under 7 free.
Mayo the motivator
Randallstown coach Kim Rivers will tell you that Levi Stukes is his best player. But ask him which player has shown the most heart, and he'll say it's reserve Duane Mayo.
"He's an excellent player on our team, but right now, he's battling Stukes for minutes, so he's a backup guard," said Rivers, whose top-ranked Rams will play St. Mary's County's Chopticon in a Class 3A semifinal at 5 p.m. today. "But he's probably the most active on the bench in keeping the team focused. ... He's a great motivator for our team because the players know he's overcome a lot of obstacles."
It's hard to believe that the well-conditioned Mayo of today scarcely could walk without losing his breath following open-heart surgery to repair a hole in his right ventricle in December 2001. Hours of physical therapy -- including his leaving classes daily to walk briskly for 20 minutes to stimulate blood flow -- allowed him to build up his stamina. He was cleared to resume sports in May 2002.
Mayo already had overcome an October 1999 diagnosis of tuberculosis, an infectious disease characterized by the formation of lesions in various tissues of the body. He was required to take medication for nine months and was cleared of that ailment in June 2000.
"I was out of school for two weeks. I was under quarantine for about a week until the pills took effect and I could be around people again," said Mayo, who had to take 13 pills daily or 24 every other day. "But I'm glad I had to go through those things. I feel stronger, like there's nothing that can hold me back. I pray every night, and when I wake up, I'm happy to be blessed with another day."
Gridiron to hardwood
There are a host of reasons why Havre de Grace is still alive in the Class 1A playoffs. The Warriors play Dunbar at 5 p.m. tomorrow at Comcast Center in the semifinals.
But Warriors coach Johnny Brooks said as big a reason as any was a disappointing loss that the Havre de Grace football team endured to eventual champion Bohemia Manor in the state playoffs in the fall.
Brooks is also the football coach and seven of his basketball players, including his two leading scorers -- seniors Richie Johnson and Richard Simpson -- were on the football team that won a regional title.
"I think we felt that we should have won that game and the football season was a little unfulfilled," Brooks said. "It has made us work harder in basketball. Every once in a while, I'll remind them of that feeling after we lost, because they don't want to feel it again."
Rematch in Class 4A
Lake Clifton, winner of 12 straight, defeated tonight's semifinal opponent, Oxon Hill of Prince George's County, in the 1999 Class 4A state championship game.
"A lot of times, I use that film to show the guys the pace, the team play, the defense and the general effort that it took to win that championship," said Lake Clifton coach Herman Harried. "I think Oxon Hill's players know about that game. I think they'll be just as prepared."
Sun staff writers Lem Satterfield and Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.