North Harford endures a season of close calls Tough losses, youth hurt 6-13 Hawks

February 21, 1993|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

It has been a frustrating basketball season for the boys team at North Harford High School.

Before the season, realistic goals were seen as a .500 record and making the regional tournament. At 6-13, with three regular-season games left, a regional bid is still possible, but at least one more win probably is needed.

Often, there are seasons when enough contests are decided by such narrow margins that a team can look back and point to several games that could have gone the other way.

At this point, eight of North Harford's games have been decided by seven points or less, and the Hawks have lost five of them.

This is the price North Harford has been paying for having a young and relatively inexperienced squad. In one game last week, coach Spike Griffith had four sophomores on the floor with senior standout Damon Roberts.

Roberts, who plays inside, and guard Chris Mills are the only seniors in a starting alignment that also usually includes junior forward Matt Miller and sophomore guard John Stearns. Several have worked at the fifth spot.

Roberts, Mills, and Stearns believe that the team has been one player away -- one who could step up and contribute -- from being a much better team. It might have meant the difference in some of those close defeats.

In the meantime, it has been a tough season for the 6-foot-4 Roberts because, after averaging 12 points and leading the county in field-goal percentage and rebounding last year, he has been the object of special defensive attention.

"He attracts the 'Damon crowd,' " said Mills of the double-teams and collapsing defenses. "Many of the shots John and I get are due to him, because lots of times we'll be free outside."

Roberts is averaging 13 points and a county-leading 13 rebounds while being called upon to be the team's workhorse. Mills is among the county leaders in three-point goals with 28, and, at the other end, Stearns is the county leader in steals, dTC averaging five.

"If I'm the leader, it's by example," Roberts said. "Really, I don't want to be considered the go-to guy, because when it gets tough, I like to think we can go to whoever is open. You have to have confidence in your teammates."

Roberts has been a three-year starter, and Mills and Stearns are in their first year as starters. Mills, a 5-foot-11 guard, moved to the area from Illinois two years ago, spent one year on the junior varsity and was used in a reserve role last year.

Stearns, a 5-10 sophomore guard, up from the junior varsity, began the season as a backup, but was shifted to starting point guard early in the year.

"He had a lot to learn," Mills said, "but he is our best ballhandler and has shown a lot of intelligence and composure."

Of Roberts, Griffith said, "We knew Damon would attract attention, but he has the advantage of being a good passer, and he runs the floor well. And I don't think there is a player in the county that can run with him for 32 minutes."

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