REMEMBER THOSE days in gym class when you played basketball on the side courts with the wooden backboards that were missing the red squares? Well, at first, it was kind of like that.
Because of a leaky roof, Roxborough High hosted Academy at Palumbo yesterday in a fast-paced game played "sideways" as trash cans caught dripping water near the Indians' logo at the center of the regular court.
Palumbo junior Anwar Epps scored 27 points and led his squad to a 77-72 victory.
Sure, he was initially taken aback by the shrunken accommodations, but he had an advantage. That wasn't even the first time his day was affected by water.
"At first, I thought we were just going to put the buckets to the side and just play," Epps said. "But then someone showed us the out-of-bounds line and I was like, 'Is this recreation?' I didn't think that could be a real game, but I just said, 'I'm going to play through it.' "
Obstacle No. 1 came when Palumbo's team bus broke down en route to the scheduled 3:15 p.m. tip.
Head coach Frank Schneider said the bus overheated and when the dispatched repair crew was slow to arrive, the team's water bottles were poured into the radiator. Three apparently did the trick, Schneider said, adding, "we fixed it the old-school way."
Nostalgia was all around. Even Epps, a 5-9, 167-pound guard, scored most of his points by deftly utilizing midrange jump shots.
Junior guard Shafi Meachum, a 5-10 guard and also Epps' cousin, finished with 20 points. Senior Rafiq McCleary, a 6-4, 180-pound forward, contributed 10 points and seven blocked shots.
Roxborough was led by Tony Brown's 18 points.
Tyere Marshall, a 6-6 center, added 12.
Palumbo nabbed control early thanks to a 15-0 spurt that netted a 37-25 lead at the break. Epps scored eight during the span, including a leaning, lefthanded scoop that barely danced over Marshall's fingertips.
Epps also drew the foul but missed the freebie. However, the attacking style dates back to when he was 4 years old.
"Everyone called me 'The Bomb' because whenever I got the ball, I would just explode to the basket," he said. "I wouldn't look at anybody. Just head down and to the basket."
His game has certainly evolved since then.
When Roxborough capitalized on the short court with fullcourt pressure, Palumbo buckled early until Epps restored order late.
"We just rush too much," Epps said. "We're just rushing to break the press. We're just all rambunctious. But, I just think if the team isn't doing it, then I need to step up and get a few points for us."
A step-back jumper from about 16 feet sutured the bleeding and extended the Griffins' lead, 66-59, with 4:24 remaining in the fourth.
"That's what basketball is about," said the 17-year-old from Overbrook Park. "It's about runs. I just told my team in the huddle that we weren't losing this game."
Epps, who attended West Catholic as a freshman and sophomore, said he hasn't gotten much college attention. He said he visited Towson on his own and met members of the coaching staff, but interest from schools has proved elusive.
He's grown accustomed to his height making him near-invisible.
"People would overlook me because I was little, but, well, here I am now," Epps said.
"It's just going to take effort. Effort, resilience and motivation. I'm just motivated to get somewhere in life."