Aberdeen's Demetrius Harris has played a lot of basketball against Demont Blackmon. But until Tuesday, it had all been in practice.
Tuesday night, Harris started as usual for the Eagles. Blackmon also started -- for Edgewood, where he had transferred over the Christmas break.
"It was real hard playing against him," said Harris, who scored agame-high 17 points as Aberdeen beat the Rams, 67-42, Tuesday.
The two have been friends since the eighth grade and had played together at Aberdeen for three years.
Harris said there were no hard feelings over Blackmon's transfer. Blackmon had moved into the Edgewood school district, but he had opted to stay at Aberdeen for the footballseason. During the football season, he said he was contemplating thetransfer.
"I didn't want him to leave, because I like playing with him, and with him, I thought we had a better chance to make states."
Last year, Edgewood was the team that kept the Eagles from reaching the state tournament. The Rams swept all three meetings and went on to the state Class 2A title game.
This year, however, the Rams aren't close to being the same team -- even with the addition of Blackmon, a 5-foot-4 defensive dynamo of a point guard. The Rams lost toomuch talent to graduation and ineligibility. With the loss to Aberdeen, the Rams' overall record dropped to 3-6, their county record to 1-1.
While the Rams are on the way down, the Eagles, who have movedto Class 3A, appear to be on the way up. Even without Blackmon, the Eagles have a talented back court in Harris and Tito Coley, who combined for 25 points, seven assists and seven steals against Edgewood.
Another boost came when William Griffin, academically ineligible atthe start of the season, pulled his grades up and returned to the team for their second game. Griffin added 13 points and five rebounds in Tuesday's win.
The Eagles also appear to have benefited from a couple of losses at the Baltimore County Invitational, a holiday tournament the weekend after Christmas. One of those losses came against The Baltimore Sun's No. 6 team, Lake Clifton, which is averaging 102 points a game.
"That told us we could be beaten," said Harris. "We felt pretty good about starting out 5-0, but that brought us back down. We can't look past nobody." In the tournament, Coach Ron Petrey said, the Eagles played well most of the time but suffered breakdowns at critical moments. In one game, the Eagles missed 14 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Petrey thinks the Eagles returned to early season form Tuesday night. "We played harder, we played smarter and we played as a team. Those are the things we have to do. We can't get caught up in one-on-one situations through the whole game. We're not that tall that we can go in and score at will."
Edgewood was no matchfor the Eagles. After a first quarter 5-5 tie that the Eagles answered with an eight-point run, the Rams never got closer than six.
The Rams used a seven-point run capped by Kenton Worthington's put backto pull within 29-22 with 1 minute, 19 seconds left in the half. TheRams pulled to 37-31 on James Jackson's free throw with 3:52 left inthe third quarter.
"I thought it might be a game of streaks," said Petrey. "We got a run and they got a run, but I never thought we got far enough ahead to be comfortable. They're a good ball club with ahistory of coming back."
But the Rams never could keep the momentum going. Aberdeen finished off the third quarter with a 10-point run, including seven points from Harris.
Richard Johnson added 11 points and four rebounds for the Eagles.
Lawrence Worthington led theRams with 13 points and 11 rebounds while Kenton Worthington had 11 points. Blackmon also added six points and three assists.