Forget Bernard Hopkins' 34 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots in last night's game against 15th-ranked Milford Mill. The 6-foot, 6-inch Overlea senior was most proud of his seven steals.
The center's inspired play took center stage in the host and No. 10 Falcons' 68-63 win in a Baltimore County 2A-1A League game.
Hopkins ignited the near-capacity crowd with three spectacular dunks, inside domination and even a three-pointer. But denying 6-7 Millers center Norm Nolan was equally satisfying.
"I guess they figured by him being long and slinky that they could just throw it over me," said Hopkins. "I was just hustling."
The win improved the Falcons' record to 19-0, including 17-0 in the league, and strengthened their hold on the Class 2A, Region 3 top seed entering next week's state playoffs. It was also their 51st straight win in league play, dating back three seasons.
"It's been fairly easy," said Overlea coach Doug Eisenhauer. "We haven't had many close games. The only team we've had some trouble with has been Milford Mill."
The Millers (16-5, 13-4), behind Nolan's 21 points and 15 rebounds, held a slim lead for most of the first half, and led, 38-36, at the intermission.
But a 12-0 Overlea run to start the second half opened a lead that the Falcons never relinquished.
"[The score] was too tight," said Hopkins. "I felt as though we had to go out and get a good lead."
Hopkins scored seven in the first 4:41 of the half, as the Falcons raced to a 48-38 lead.
The Millers got as close as two, at 52-50 early in the fourth quarter, but never came any closer after Nolan was forced to sit for two minutes midway through the quarter after picking up his fourth personal.
The much anticipated Hopkins vs. Nolan matchup was ended early, when Hopkins got 12 points, 12 rebounds and a pair of blocks in the first quarter, while holding Nolan to three field goals.
Said Eisenhauer: "The difference is one's a senior and one's a sophomore. I'd sure hate to have to play Nolan for two more years though."