Hereford hopes good fortune extends to playoffs Late-season streak ensured playoff berth

March 09, 1993|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Contributing Writer

Hereford boys basketball coach Steve Power was optimistic about his team before the season began. When the Bulls slid under .500 midway through the year, however, Power began to wonder.

Now that No. 19 Hereford is heading to Cole Field House -- site of the state championships -- Power feels good again.

Hereford was 8-11 a few weeks ago. The Bulls have won six straight since then, including three close playoff games, on their way to capturing the Class 2A, Region II title and a spot in the state semifinal against Edgewood at 9 p.m Friday at the University of Maryland this week.

When Hereford was at 8-11 with three games left in the regular season, Power told his team a perfect finish was needed to ensure a playoff berth.

The Bulls (14-11) came through, defeating Chesapeake-BC, Towson and Patapsco to lock up the fourth seed in their region. Power also wanted the fourth seed because it gave his team a home game in the region quarterfinals.

"Playing at home was crucial for us because going

away to Howard County is really difficult," said Power.

Hereford defeated Oakland Mills, 53-50, in the home game. The Bulls then nipped Overlea, 67-66, on Thursday and took the regional title with a 59-58 victory at Hammond on Friday.

Center Jamey Mathews was a big reason Hereford won those playoff games. The 6-foot-7 senior, who averaged 18.1 points per game and 10.0 rebounds, hit the game-winning shot in the last two playoff games, and the shot that gave the Bulls the lead for good in the first one.

Mathews has been the big scorer for Hereford this season. He has scored 1,123 points -- a school record -- in his career.

He said the team realized late in the season that time was slipping away from them.

"We knew if we wanted to go to Cole Field House or win a state or regional championship, we'd have to do it now," said Mathews. "It's hard to explain what [happened]. There's something that clicked."

One thing that clicked was Power made some strategic changes.

Late in the season, he made some defensive adjustments. The Bulls started using their backcourt for full-court pressure and then shifted their defense in the half-court setting.

Power said the pressure has been responsible for four or five extra turnovers per game. And those easily can be considered possible game-winners considering that the Bulls average 1.5 more points per game (58.5) than they give up (57).

"That leaves a small margin for error," said Power.

Power rotates Mike Shive, Matt Saunders and John Wingeart through the two guard spots. They are responsible for the pressure defense that often disrupted opponent's offenses.

"The guards have really stepped up and played incredible defense," said Mathews. "They're scrapping and going after the loose balls."

Power said that success has carried over into other areas. The gambling-type pressure has created extra adrenaline and sparked the team.

Power said the Bulls lacked spark early in the season, and it puzzled him. He saw potential in the team, and could not understand its lack of success.

The Bulls have three big men. Mathews, forward DeWayne Fowble (6-4, 14.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg) and guard Mike Bailey (6-5, 10.4 ppg, 4.5 assists per game) give Hereford inside and outside threats.

Still, the Bulls started slow. They lost three close games early that made Power wonder if they could win the tough games.

"We would fluctuate," said Power. "We were up and down. We would play well for one half, then [play poorly]."

Mathews thinks the Dulaney Tournament at Christmas was the low point. Hereford fell twice there. After that, he said, the Bulls began coming together.

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