Overlea's Bernard Hopkins and Milford Mill's Norm Nolan stepped onto the basketball court yesterday for a much-anticipated clash of Baltimore County titans.
Although it took two extra periods to decide, give round one to Hopkins.
In a low-scoring affair, Hopkins, a 6-foot-6 senior, scored 32 points and grabbed 19 rebounds. He also held Nolan, 6-7, to 15 points, eight below his average, in leading No. 13 Overlea to a 56-54, double-overtime win over host and No. 14 Milford Mill.
It wasn't how many points Hopkins scored as much as when he scored them. After hitting a three-pointer from the top of the key with five seconds left in regulation to force overtime, Hopkins rallied his team from a 54-52 deficit in the second overtime by scoring the final four points.
"It didn't seem that Hopkins could do anything wrong," said Milford Mill coach Homer Seidel, whose team dropped to 7-2, including 4-1 in the Baltimore County 2A-1A Division. "He played a great game down the stretch."
Nolan made things easier for him by fouling out with 1 minute, 17 seconds left in the first overtime.
"[Nolan's] good. He's a prime-time player," said Hopkins, whose team improved to 7-0, including 5-0 in the conference. "We were fronting him to deny him the ball. Then, once he got into foul trouble, I just told [my teammates] to get me the ball so I could go at him."
Hopkins did just that. After Nolan picked up his second personal with 4:42 left in the first quarter, Hopkins went on a scoring binge, getting 10 points in a span of 5:10.
After the Millers took a 12-6 lead, Hopkins scored eight of the game's next 10 points, all on layups, to even the score at 14 with 5:31 left in the first half.
"He [Hopkins] is all right, he can play," said Nolan, who finished with a team-high 18 rebounds but never really got into the flow on offense. "I got into foul trouble and I couldn't be as aggressive as I wanted."
The teams shot a combined 34 percent from the field, and Milford Mill made 20 of 59 shots.
Each center led his team in scoring and only the Millers' Jerome Dennis (11 points) joined them in double figures.
"We missed a lot of wide-open shots," said Seidel. "Our kids were really tight. This was a big, big game, and our kids don't play in many of those."
The game's slow pace surprised Hopkins.
"I thought it would be an up-and-down game," he said. "The scoring was more to our liking. They're used to scoring 80 or 90 a game."