Behind a game-high 35 points from sophomore guard Mark Peters, the Howard Community College men's basketball team topped visiting Anne Arundel Community College, 95-69, in Maryland Juco basketball action Wednesday night.
Peters, who averages 33 points per game and is second in scoring nationally for Division III junior colleges, has been instrumental in a fast 10-2 start by the Express.
"We felt that Mark was the key as far as the game and season goes," said HCC coach Wheeler Brown. "He is one of our go-to guys, and the team recognizes that. If he scores 25 points in a game, then our chances of winning will be very good. He is the best player I have had in my four years here."
HCC currently is tied for first place withMontgomery-Germantown in the National Division of the Maryland JuCo Conference with a 3-1 record.
"I definitely think we can win our division," Brown said. "We basically have more depth than anyone."
The team was ranked as high as fifth nationally this season, before dropping a 2-point overtime decision to Montgomery-Germantown Nov. 30 to fall to ninth in the NJCAA Division III poll.
Despite lossing three starters to injury, HCC has still been able to boast an impressive record.
"It's a credit to the kids on the team, and our record speaks for the quality of the players at Howard," Brown said. "If we had been at full strength, the Montgomery-Germantown game could have been a different story. Someone always steps forward and does a good job when we have had injuries."
In the victory over AACC, the Express received 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a three-pointer from former Howard High School standout Woody Nicholson.
HCC fell behind early to the Pioneers, trailing, 8-2, within the first three minutes of the contest.
The Express, however, tied the game at19-19 at the 12-minute, 32-second mark of the first half as the teamwent on a 17-9 run, highlighted by eight points from Peters.
A 20-4 HCC spurt over the next five minutes gave the Express a 40-23 advantage late in the period.
"The players know how to turn it on whenthey need to," Brown said. "We try to come out running, because that's what we do best. It was above-average play on our part."
AACC cut the Express' lead to 13 points with a pair of baskets and 10 free throws.
Although the Pioneers had a 12-6 run in the last seven minutes of the period, HCC still held a 46-37 advantage at halftime.
Peters set the pace in the first half with 19 points, while Nicholsonchipped in 12 points and six rebounds. James Sharps led AACC in the first period with 10 points, while Ray Osborne added seven.
The Express continued to dominate AACC early in the second period.
HCC extended its lead to 19 points at 64-45 within the first eight minutesof the half behind eight points from Brian Parker, and ballooned themargin to 26 points less than four minutes later.
HCC continued strong for the remainder of the half, never allowing AACC to get any closer than 20 points.
"I knew once we started clinching, then we would break it open," Brown said.
Parker had 18 points, five assists and six steals for HCC, including a trio of three-pointers, while Jermaine Reynolds posted 10 rebounds.
AACC, which drops to 5-2 withthe loss, had four players score in double figures: Sharps (16), Osborne (16), Ralph Purnell (11) and Keith Thompson (10).