A basketball player named Sampson, about a foot and a half shorter than his more famous second cousin, made life easy for Washington Coach Oscar Phillips in the U.S. Youth Games yesterday.

So easy that Washington will be taking the McDonough Gym main floor at 4 p.m. this afternoon in quest of a "gold medal" in the games.

So easy that Washington can lose and then get an immediate rematch for the title.

If Michael Sampson continues to do what he does best -- penetrate, pass off and score -- then probably no second game will be needed. Sampson, a 5-foot-9 point guard, scored 34 points in the two games yesterday and his passing accounted for at least another 34. And he is by no means the only standout.

Phillips calls Derrick Daniels "the team's force." Against Baltimore in the morning and then Birmingham in the afternoon, many of the shots that Daniels blocked turned into fast breaks led by Sampson.

Danny Ferry, a sophomore at De Matha, scored 24 points against Baltimore, and made all six of his free throws in the fourth quarter to secure a 61-59 victory.

Fred Cunningham's game-high 20 points sent Birmingham to the losers' bracket, 75-62, in the double-elimination competition.

Also contributing were Darryl Prue and Sherman Douglas.

But orchestrating this group is Sampson, who will be a junior at Archbishop John Carroll. In the words of Phillips, "You will be reading a lot about him over the next few years."

Sampson only met his well-known cousin Ralph at basketball camp this summer.

"My brother knows him a little better," said Sampson. "He (Ralph) stole all the height in the family. But I'm only 15 and the doctor says I should be about 6-1."

Basketball, in one respect, may be a game of inches -- as in who has the most -- but it also requires a playmaker, no matter what size, to feed those big people. That's a role Sampson, who says he patterns himself after Gus Williams, fills amply.

Trailing, 28-24, at the half against Baltimore, Washington and Sampson came on strong. Twelve straight points later and Washington had a lead to stay. Baltimore got close at 38-34, but two assists, one steal and one lay-up by Sampson were too much for the opposition.

Birmingham also attempted to spoil the majority of the fans' fun, but again, it was Sampson on a lay-up and then a pass that led to a dunk by Daniels, that insured the victory. Busy day, but well worth it.

"I told the guys they could have a vacation til tomorrow if they won," said Phillips. Birmingham and Baltimore will play at 1 p.m. today for the right to meet Washington.

The games conclude with track, swimming and tennis finals today. The girls basketball final will begin at 2:30 today.

Yesterday, however, in between complaints about the heat in Yates Field House, the dominant topic of conversation was the team.

"We're going for the gold," said Sampson.

"We are certainly on a roll," understated Phillips.