Harford Tech's familiarity breeds success

January 09, 1994|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

The recent Harford Tech numbers fairly screamed for attention: A 5-1 record, with one player getting 35 points in successive games to raise his county-leading scoring average to 28.3.

Last year, with three of the current starters in the starting lineup, Tech lost its first 11 games and ended with only six wins.

Scoring leader Kelly Turner, a 6-foot-2 senior from Edgewood, is only part of this season's winning equation.

He is joined by the other returning starters, junior Lechea Johns, the third member of an Edgewood family to star for the Cobras in recent years, and sophomore Pete Surette, a 5-10 guard from Aberdeen.

Johns, a slender 6-footer, is averaging 12 points, and Surette 10 points to go with 10 assists a game. A year ago, he led the county with an average of 10.8 assists.

"Last year was our first together and it took time to learn what to do. And there was a tendency to look for Tykell," said Johns. Older brother Tykell was the county scoring leader as a senior last year and was definitely the team's go-to player.

Still, the others came along well enough to help the team win six of its last nine games to qualify for the Class 1A regional, where it lost to Fallston in the first round.

It was enough to give promise for another season, promise that has been fulfilled so far. Now comes the real work.

Harford Tech enters the heart of its schedule Tuesday when it plays at Havre de Grace, beginning a run of five straight games against county opponents, seven in an eight-game span.

"I'm a lot more comfortable this year," Surette said, "because I'm used to playing with these guys and we know what each other does.

"Last year, I was definitely intimidated. I was a freshman playing with seniors and I was hesitant to do much."

Even with his recent scoring bursts, Turner doesn't see himself as a go-to player. "Not with these guys around. We'll spread the points around," he said.

"Last year, I thought the coach was tough on us as individuals, but this year I think he's easier, but the practices are harder. He's giving us more things to do."

Jules Bernstein's handling of his squad last season is paying dividends this time. The results are indicative of how much the players have grown.

"Last year, we didn't know how to win," Johns said, "Now, it's a different attitude. We've won some and we lost that one, and we know what it felt like."

Or as Turner added, "Once you win, you know what it takes."

As a result, it makes the players more willing to work.

Tech has beaten Wilmington Christian, Rising Sun, Pompeii, Harford Christian and Mount Carmel, and lost only to North East, 80-56. For the five wins, the average score was 73-53.

In addition to scoring, Turner leads the team in rebounding, averaging seven a game, but he has been getting help from juniors Mike Rodriguez and Mike Radel.

"The key game for us last year was our win [48-47] against North Harford," Bernstein said. "Tykell had his best game in assists and rebounds when he had his lowest scoring effort. It showed the others they did not need him to score 20 or more a game in order to win."

Where Johns and Surette came to the school as freshmen, Turner transferred from Edgewood last year. He has fit in well, though, and his athletics, as well as his academics, have improved.

There is more help on the way, too. Bernstein sat in at registration last fall, got the names of potential players, sent out 48 letters and had 36 responses. He had to make cuts for the first time and now has a varsity of 11 players and a JV of 17. Contrast that with a year ago, when there were seven players on each team.

This time, though, the players are better prepared. They expect to be more competitive against county teams, and a .500 season is a real possibility. It's that winning feeling.

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