In a game in which both basketball teams took the "s" out of fast break and spelled turnover with a huge T, the Capital All-Stars put together a last-quarter spurt just in time to halt the U.S. All-Stars, 84-81, before a disappointed throng of 15,296 in the seventh annual Capital Classic at Capital Centre last night.
For the first three periods, both teams shot poorly, turned the ball over consistently and rarely showed an ounce of hustle or enthusiasm.
Only the zany antics of the celebrated Chicken and a halftime shooting and dribbling exhibition of 10-year-old Sean Miller kept the fans from heading home early.
Despite being beaten on the boards by the bigger and more aggressive U.S. team, the locals trailed by only 60-54 going into the final quarter.
Then, for the first time, both teams began to demonstrate some skills. Charlie Sitton, tops for the visitors with 15 points, dropped in a layup to put the U.S. team up by eight.
Earl Jones, the ballyhooed, 6-foot-10 three-time all-American from Mount Hope, W.Va., and Spingarn, then turned the game into his private showcase.
"He was the difference," said Sitton, referring to Jones. "We took a lot of quick shots and that got us in trouble."
That and the play of Jones, Arnie Russell and Tom Sluby. A 9-0 run, with Sluby providing four points and Russell three, sent the Capital team ahead, 63-62, with 7:40 to play. Jones, who finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks and was voted big team's MVP, sank the go-ahead basket following a nice shovel pass from his Spingarn teammate, John Jones.
Sitton, a slim 6-8 scrapper, muscled his way inside for two layups and 6-10 Joe Kleine used every one of his 255 pounds to drop in a layup and help the U.S. squad regain the lead, 71-68, with 4:15 to play.
The U.S. team missed several free throws in the final quarter, and "We could have had a bigger lead if we had made them," said U.S. Coach Nick Robertson. "Earl was the factor. He got the fast break going with his outlet passes.
"We were bigger but slower and a little fuzzy on offense."
With Jones now controlling play inside and whipping out perfect passes to Othell Wilson, the Capital team ran off a 12-0 blitz to take an 80-71 advantage with 2:07 remaining.
Russell, a 6-7 power forward from T.C. Williams, started that rush with a pair of free throws. Sluby put the locals ahead to stay, 72-71, with a flying layup between two U.S. defenders.
Russell, scoring all 17 of his points in the second half, sank another pair of free throws. Earl Jones hummed home a dunk. Russell hit a 15-footer, then capped the rally with yet two more free throws and the hosts were well on their way to the Capital entry's third straight victory in the gala event for basketball addicts.
"Our pride was at stake," said Russell, who also gathered 11 rebounds. "We played together, especially at the end."
The U.S. team tried to muster a little pride of its own in the waning minutes. A followup basket by Glenn Rivers and a jumper and pair of free throws by James Banks cut the Capitals lead to 84-77, with 46 seconds on the clock.
The locals, who committed 20 turnovers (the U.S. team had 26), became just reckless enough in the final 90 seconds to allow the hustling U.S. players to make it close.
Two mistakes resulted in two free throws by Sitton, who pulled down 16 rebounds and was voted U.S. most valuable player, and a driving layup by Glenn Mayers to account for the final points.
But the party was over for the U.S. All-Stars.
The lithe, agile Jones, who said he "was saving his best for last" did a bit of everything. He bottled up the middle on defense, grabbed every ball that banged off the rim, stole two passes and fired outlet passes that led to several easy Capital baskets.
"He played really good," Sitton remarked. "Easily, the best player I've ever played against."
The U.S. team sank 33 to 84 (39 percent) from the field and 15 of 29 from the line. The Capital team wasn't much better, 31 of 83 (38 percent) from the floor.
In the preliminary game, Mike Smith scored 15 points and Craig Cooley 13 to help the District All-Stars trounce the Suburban All-Stars, 75-60.