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Is this best Terps team ever?

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Thu. February 23, 2012 | Joey Knight | Email

Is this best Terps team ever?

In nearly three full decades at Tampa Prep, Joe Fenlon has had cerebral teams and sleek ones, city champions and state runners-up.

Some have relied on moxie, others on McDonald's All-Americans.

But never in his 28 years has Fenlon had a team quite like his current one.

It might,  just might, go down as his best ever.

The Terrapins (28-1), who host Orlando First Academy in Saturday night's Class 3A region finals, are three victories shy of the program's first state title. That alone would earn it the non-debatable distinction of being Fenlon's best ever.

A win Saturday, against the squad that toppled it in last season's 2A state semifinals, would fortify such a claim. But even now, several factors -- scoring balance, depth, athleticism -- suggest this Fenlon team could topple any other.

"It's probably my deepest team," Fenlon acknowledged minutes after Tuesday night's 76-44 annihilation of Lakeland's McKeel Academy in the region semifinals. "I've never had a team with four kids who averaged double figures before; I've had teams with three. I think it's my most athletic team."

The cluster of double-figure scorers -- Devontae Morgan, Josh Heath, Marshall Holmes and 6-foot-8 Rwanda move-in Adonis Rwabigwi -- features no one who averages more than 16.3 (Morgan) or fewer than 10.8 (Holmes, Rwabigwi).

On the other end, it has held 20 opponents to fewer than 45 points. Heath, son of USF coach Stan Heath, considers defense -- a relentless style that fosters the Terps' breakneck tempo -- the team's strength.

"We can go seven, eight, nine guys deep," Heath said. "We've had the same team for two years. We play well together. We've got a lot of experience since we were doing the same thing last year."

Indeed, the top five scorers from last season's 25-4 final four squad returned. That nucleus received a huge frontcourt boost when Rwabigwi, who aspires to represent his native country in the 2016 Olympics, transferred from nearby Faith Baptist Academy.

Rwabigwi averages eight rebounds and 2.3 blocks. Against McKeel, he had a career night (20 points, 18 boards, four blocks).

"We're pretty good defensively," Heath said, "but we trust him that if our man has to get by us, he can eliminate that."

He'll have to come up huge Saturday. First Academy returns four players who logged at least 20 minutes in last season's state semis, and was strengthened in the offseason when 6-6 junior Hudson Price -- son of former NBA guard Mark Price -- moved in.

Some already are dubbing this the de facto 3A state title game. A win also would make it the Terrapins' ultimate statement game.

A statement that would resonate over Fenlon's 28 years.

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