In the past couple of years, Matt Sedgely has grown into his role asthe starting center for Bel Air's basketball team.
A 6-foot-8 senior, Sedgely has had the height for basketball all through high school, but this year, his skill level is catching up to his height advantage.
In Tuesday night's 49-46 victory over Severn, for example, Sedgely hit eight baskets in a row to hold off a second-half Severn charge.
He scored a career-high 18 points and also finished with eight rebounds, five blocks, two steals and one assist.
"That was one of Matt's best games ever," said Bobcats coach Bill Georg. "(This year) he's getting into the offense much better, and we are getting him the ball. He's also raised his shooting percentage from about 30 percent to 50."
The win over Severn was the fifth in seven games for the Bobcats (5-7 overall, 3-2 league before Friday night's game at Edgewood). Not bad for a team that started out 0-5.
After graduating all of their top scorers and rebounders, the Bobcats were slow to rebuild. Only Sedgely, forward Paul Daniele and guard Craig Carpenter had much playing time last year. Putting them on the court with two new starters, point guard Dia Nichols and forward Tim Merrill, didn't produce wins right away.
"We were trying to get what we had to work as ateam," said Sedgely. "We didn't have any stars. It was more of a congealing chemistry time."
The turnaround began at the Liberty Tournament, a holiday invitational at Liberty High School in Carroll County. The Bobcats played well but lost to Liberty in the first round andthen beat Owings Mills in the consolation game.
They followed with a loss to North Harford before taking a critical win over C. MiltonWright, 49-42, on Jan. 7. Sedgely scored 12 and Daniele added 11. That was the Mustangs' first league loss.
"The kids were real high after that win," said Georg. "They had been reading -- C. Milton's been getting a lot of write-ups in the papers, and they are one of the other teams getting votes in The Sun's (Top 20) poll."
Beating their archrivals gave the Bobcats a confidence boost, said Sedgely.
"Momentum is part of all sports. It was a way to start the ball rolling. When you go against a team doing well, against a team with the kindof start they had (7-2), it does help," he said.
Against Severn, the Bobcats started out strong, but nearly let a 30-17 halftime lead slip away. With several starters in foul trouble, the Bobcats alreadyhad enough problems when Carpenter went down with a sprained ankle.
Without all of their starters in the game, the Bobcats lost composure. Against the Admirals' double-teaming defense, they stopped goinginside to Sedgely and only scored seven points in the quarter. The Admirals cut the margin to 37-33.
The Bobcats barely held onto their lead in the fourth quarter. They hit some key free throws, including two each by Sedgely and Carpenter, who had returned at the beginning of the quarter.
"We were in danger of losing, but we never fell behind," explained Georg. "I thought we would be OK if we didn't loseour lead. If we got behind, I didn't think we would have enough leftto come back."
Carpenter, a 6-3 senior who had led the Bobcats' scoring by averaging 14 points a game, added 10 points and six rebounds. Paul Daniele had seven rebounds.
But that will be Carpenter's last game for a few weeks. He returned to school Wednesday morning on crutches after being diagnosed with strained ligaments in his ankle. He could miss up to four weeks.
Georg will have trouble finding someone who can fill in with the same kind of scoring and rebounding.
"I was real happy until the injury," said Georg.
"We've been playing well and now I don't know they'll respond to not having Craig."
Sedgely said he and the other three starters will have to pick up their contributions if the Bobcats plan to stay in the hunt for a regional playoff berth.
Bel Air will play host to Joppatowne Tuesday night.
The second half of the county schedule begins Friday night,and the Bobcats will head for a rematch with North Harford.