Ninety-two degrees. That temperature frays nerves and heats up tempers.
Yesterday in Dunbar High School's overstuffed gym, the mercury climbed until the court was sizzling, turning the Bullets' 148-145 overtime Urban Coalition League victory over the Big M Trotters into a series of shoving matches that came close to fisticuffs.
The most notable disputee was Kevin Graham, brother of former University of Maryland standout Ernie Graham. Just three minutes into the game, he squared off with Rick Mahorn of the Bullets. Midway in the second quarter, with the Bullets holding a 48-45 lead, Graham challenged Mahorn again.
Round 3 for Graham and Mahorn came in the fourth quarter when the two contended for a rebound and came up swinging. Delmar Harrod of Big M stepped between them and suddenly began flashing his fists, too. The officials then cleared the floor and threatened to terminate the game.
Asked whether he liked Graham, Mahorn replied, "Not necessarily. But on the court, I don't like anybody. What happened was nothing but heat and intensity."
Graham refused to discuss his actions.
The players turned on the officials, too.
"The officiating was terrible," said Mahorn. Bullet General Manager Bob Ferry was more vocal. He chastised the beleaguered referees with cries of "You stink!" throughout the game.
"Actually," Ferry said afterward, "they are not much different from NBA officials."
They did find some time to play basketball. Mike Ferrara, third-round pick of the Bullets from Colgate, became a crowd hero with his behind-the-back-passes and long-range jumpers. He scored 17 points. Trotter Joe Pace had five slam dunks and seven blocked shots. Charlie Davis of the Bullets was the game's high scorer with 30 points, followed by Greg Sanders of Big M with 29.
The Bullets, who had trailed by as many as six points, managed to tie at regulation, 138-138, on a couple of Davis slam dunks off Ferrara assists.
In overtime, the teams matched baskets until Davis scored on a three-point play to put the Bullets up, 146-143. Graham closed the gap to one with a long jumper. But Ron Davis was fouled by Ducky Vaughn of the Trotters with 13 seconds left. He hit both his free throws to settle things.