Hammond wins by losing Bears receive confidence boost with better play

January 03, 1993|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff Writer

A high school basketball team's stock can rise significantly based on one holiday tournament. And as the Hammond boys team found out, it doesn't have to be a winning effort.

The Bears (2-4) lost two of three games at the Wes Unseld Holiday Basketball Tournament, but gained some valuable confidence.

They'll need that confidence to help wipe out memories of last season, an 8-14 disappointment that broke a streak of six straight playoff appearances and five straight second-place league finishes.

This season began much the same as last, with Hammond beating a weak South Carroll team by 26 points, but losing to Arundel by 22 and to Liberty by seven. Liberty lost to four other county teams -- Centennial, Atholton, Howard and Oakland Mills. The Bears were not playing well.

"That Liberty game shattered our confidence," Bears coach Jack Burke said.

But against a quality Unseld field, they looked like a different team. There was no embarrassing 33-point loss to Broadneck as in 1991.

In fact, the Class 2A Bears played so well in the opener, a four-point loss to Class 4A Broadneck, that they earned a rave review from Mount Hebron coach Scott Robinson, whose Vikings are expected to contend for the league title again after finishing second by one game last season.

"That was the best game I've seen a county team have so far this season," Robinson said. "Hammond looked very strong."

Hammond pushed 13th-ranked Broadneck, which had won four of the previous six Unseld tournaments, to its limit with an effective full-court press and half-court trap. The defense pressured Broadneck into 27 turnovers -- 13 in the third quarter.

The Bears executed a motion offense, and starting 6-foot-6 centers James Fehrmann and Claude Moore were imposing figures. They did all the scoring as Hammond raced to a 9-0 lead, and had 15 points as the Bears ended the first period with a 17-15 lead.

It was the first game the two centers both had started, and only because Burke disciplined three starters for missing a Saturday practice. He didn't start Mike Mathews, Irving Conwell or Jason Myatt.

"It won't be the last time they [Fehrmann and Moore] start together," Burke said.

Only a cold-shooting spell and some turnovers by Hammond at the end resulted in a 60-56 defeat.

The Bears' effort, despite the loss, was pleasing enough to Burke to elicit one of his colorful quotes.

"We looked like Miss America today. I just hope we don't go back to Bride of Frankenstein tomorrow," he said.

The didn't happen the next day against Randallstown, although the Bears played sloppily, making 25 turnovers. The Bears won, 52-48, with senior point guard Kris Jefferson giving another strong showing and the defense forcing 28 turnovers.

Against Broadneck, Jefferson had played his best game, scoring 12 points. Against Randallstown he improved further with 19 points, including the game-winning jumper with 1:07 left. He added two free throws to make it 50-46.

Matthews, a sophomore guard who gets high marks from Burke, scored 10 points against Randallstown. He had 11 against Broadneck.

Anyone who was waiting for the Bears to collapse in the third game against Mount St. Joseph, another tough opponent, was disappointed.

The Bears lost, 48-47, but Jefferson scored 22 with eight assists, and Matthews had 10 points. Moore had seven blocked shots.

The early loss of Fehrmann to a sprained ankle might have cost Hammond the game, because St. Joe had no starter over 6-2.

Hammond led by three with 50 seconds left, after a jumper by freshman Conwell. But two steals that led to layups by St. Joe put the Gaels ahead, 46-45.

Matthews was fouled while bringing the ball down the floor, and sank two free throws for a 47-46 Hammond lead.

But the Gaels scored off a long pass to win, 48-47.

"That last shot rolled around and around before it went in," Burke said. "We were trying to change our defense on the inbounds pass and got caught with people out of position. Jefferson just missed making a great steal."

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