Joppatowne shifts to stretch-drive gear Mariners leave slow start behind

February 14, 1993|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

Coach Mike Bauer was giving his Joppatowne High School boys basketball team a history lesson the other day. In his mind, he was planting the seed of another late-season revival.

"I told them one of our state championship teams was 8-8 at this point in the season, and that's where we were after beating North Harford Tuesday night," Bauer said.

The point was not lost on seniors Jermaine Head and Michael Harris, the only holdovers from the last championship team.

Two years ago, Joppatowne was riding high, finishing 20-4 in its Class 1A championship year. A year ago, with three starters gone, the mark was 8-15.

A month ago, the Mariners were struggling again, having lost six of their first eight games, including four straight to Harford County opposition.

More recently, there has been a turnaround. Bauer's team has won six of its past nine, losing only to county co-leaders Aberdeen and Edgewood (twice).

"The county schedule is for pride; it's nice to win," said Harris, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound defensive specialist who clogs the middle at both ends of the court, "but our goal is to finish No. 2 in the region."

Perryville, No. 1 in the region, defeated Joppatowne in an early-season meeting, 50-48, but, "they caught us early," Head said. "I think it's very possible for us to go to the state tournament. We'll make some noise in the playoffs."

A two-year starter, the 6-foot Head's scoring average is up from 14 points to 17, and he averages five assists. It's a measure of how far he has come.

"He was so out of control as a ninth-grader, I didn't know whether he'd be able to play for us or not," Bauer said. "I kept

him as a 10th-grader, and he's really come a long way the last two years."

Harris missed all of last season after knee surgery caused by a late-season football injury.

K? "I had a problem with the knee early in the season for both

sports, but I'm fine now," he said. "In fact, I think it [the surgery] helped with my agility."

His return and the steady improvement of 6-foot-4 junior Chris Gephardt has allowed Bauer to go to a bigger lineup, using the two at the same time, plus Head, junior Rodney Briscoe, who started the last half of last season, and 5-10 junior Chuck Hunter, who started near the end of last year.

"I thought we'd be better at the start than we were, but we have come together as a team better at this time," Head said. "Chris and Rodney are getting better. I think Chris will be a factor the rest of the year, and Rodney -- he likes to go to the basket -- is improving his outside game."

For Harris, his leadership is seen as the most important part of his game.

"I think we missed that last year. Although he came to the games, it wasn't the same thing," said Bauer. "He is in his second year as student government president and is the student representative to the county school board. He has a lot of responsibility."

A likely football player in college (he was an All-County linebacker), Harris enjoys basketball and, as Bauer said, "he gets the most out of what he has."

It is an attitude that rubs off on his teammates and is raising their confidence level.

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