Atholton clinches tie for crown

February 26, 1994|By Chuck Acquisto | Chuck Acquisto,Special to The Sun

All that stood between Atholton and at least a share of its first Howard County boys basketball title since 1985-86 was upstart host Howard.

But unlike Hammond's end-of-season loss to Howard a year ago -- which cost the Golden Bears the championship outright -- the visiting Raiders (16-6, 10-4) were not about to let the Lions (8-14, 5-9) relish the spoiler role once again.

Behind the inside combination of junior center D.J. Chiles (18 points, 11 rebounds) and senior forward Tony Stewart (11 points, nine rebounds), Atholton bounced back from a subpar first-half performance to defeat Howard, 49-46.

"We've played three or four games in a relatively short period of time and that could have had an effect on us tonight," said Atholton coach Jim Albert. "Our last two games we played real well in the first half, opening up big leads, then had to hold on for wins. That wasn't my concern tonight."

The win capped a 3-0 week for the Raiders, a team that posted a 1-4 mark against the county's other top contenders, Mount Hebron (0-2) and Wilde Lake (1-1).

Atholton, bound for the Class 2A playoffs, must wait for the rescheduled March 7 showdown between 14th-ranked Mount Hebron (17-4, 9-4) and Hammond to see if the Raiders will share the title with the Vikings.

"To win a share of the county championship is a big honor for us since Atholton hasn't won it in such a long time," Stewart said.

Atholton, a preseason favorite to contend for the championship, trailed Howard for all but the final 42 seconds of the first half, when Chiles' jumper put the Raiders on top for good.

"I really went at them at halftime," said Albert, referring to Atholton's 28-27 lead at the half. "I challenged them right there in the locker room that it was up to them if they were to win a title or lose it all."

Albert's players heeded their coach as they scored a quick six points, including four by Chiles, to increase the lead to 34-27 with 6:30 left in the third quarter.

Howard rallied to tie late in the third quarter on a jumper by senior Javier Michaux (14 points, 11 rebounds), but Raiders reserve forward Varian Harvery's layup and foul shot had Atholton up 39-36 going into the fourth.

Howard's Monte Carter put back a missed Lions shot to pull his team within 39-38 at the fourth quarter outset, but the Lions got no closer.

Howard, trailing 49-46 with eight seconds left, had a final opportunity, but Carter's three-point try bounced off the rim and into the arms of Atholton's Stewart at the buzzer.

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