Thursday, December 15, 2005


Hargrave’s Macklin gets 20 in winning return to Norcom

The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)
December 15, 2005
by Paul White

PORTSMOUTH — It was Vernon Macklin’s night, but with a wide-open dunk in front of him, Hargrave Military Academy’s Aswon Sayles briefly forgot the memo.

So instead of flipping the ball back to a trailing Macklin on a breakaway, Sayles flushed it himself — then nearly got booed out of Junius Kellogg Gymnasium.

‘‘Gimme my money back!’’ one fan shouted. ‘‘We came to see Ticket!’’

No refunds were necessary, though. The ‘‘Big Ticket’’ delivered more than his share of ferocious dunks in a triumphant return to Portsmouth, as Hargrave Military Academy raced past Norcom 86-65 before an appreciative capacity crowd.

‘‘Everybody’s showing me a lot of love,’’ said Macklin, the 6-foot-9 senior who transferred to Hargrave for a more rigorous athletic and academic curriculum after three years of starring for the Greyhounds. ‘‘I had a lot of fun. I’d like to do it again.’’

Although boarding school can be a culture shock for many, friends predicted that the easy-going Macklin would have little trouble making the transition. And indeed, on Wednesday night the military Macklin seemed a lot like the same ol’ Vernon — the same seemingly indifferent gaze, the same loping gait, the same stunning explosiveness to the rim.

There were no banners or signs celebrating Macklin’s return, and his pre-game introduction was met with mere polite applause.

Then, about 45 seconds into the game, ex-Woodside High star Stefan Welsh flipped the ball off the glass to a streaking Macklin, who extended his right arm and crammed the ball through the rim.

The place went nuts.

Norcom’s Ben Finney did everything he could to keep the youthful-but-pesky Greyhounds in it, as he finished with 28 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. With Finney leading the way, the Greyhounds trailed just 18-16 after one quarter.

But with the Georgetown-bound Macklin fronting a roster of eight other Division I signees, superior talent eventually won out.

Tyler Smith, a smooth 6-7 wing, led Hargrave with 23 points. Macklin, who is averaging 19 this season, delivered 20 against his former team. The last two may have been his most spectacular — a fourth-quarter rebound, coast-to-coast dribble and slam that brought the fans out of their seats.

‘‘Way to put on a show, dog!’’ one fan shouted as Macklin departed the court with 2:01 left.

The line pretty much summed up the evening. For while Macklin may no longer be a Greyhound, he’s still seems to be the Norcom fans’ ‘‘dog.’’

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