Hammond gets a bang out of Nicholson, Harrison

January 22, 1995|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Staff Writer

Just call them TNT.

Tiki Nicholson and Tameka Harrison. The sparks in Hammond's explosive transition game.

So stingy on defense, they can humble a team in a matter of minutes. Trailing Howard by 13 last week, Hammond flipped on the press and the senior guards combined for 11 points in a 17-2 blitz that turned the game around.

The opposition never gets used to that.

"They're the hardest guards we've ever had to match up with," said Mount Hebron point guard Alisha Mosley. "They play run-and-gun, quick pass. They have speed. They jump well. They play great defense. They're just tough."

Since Nicholson and Harrison arrived, the Golden Bears have gone 82-13 and won three regional championships, two state Class 2A titles and a Howard County championship.

Coach Joe Russo gives Nicholson and Harrison as much credit as anyone for Hammond's success, although they often were overshadowed by former teammate Kacy Williams, last year's All-Metro Co-Player of the Year.

"When Tiki and Tameka were freshmen and they started to play a lot, the team just got better and better," said Russo. "We started off winning our first nine games or something like that and then we got into the county and lost a couple. Then they started to play a lot and we won all the big games."

That year, Hammond stunned two-time defending state champ Mount Hebron in the regional playoffs, and Nicholson and Harrison had a lot to do with that. Harrison scored the game-winner and Nicholson held the Vikings' leading scorer to seven points.

After playing high school and AAU basketball together for nearly four years, Nicholson and Harrison have developed an almost instinctive connection.

"If there's one thing I really like about Tameka it's that she doesn't make me look bad," said All-Metro guard Nicholson, "because my passes, some people can't catch and she's always open to catch my passes. We're so used to playing with each other and she knows when I'm going to pass, how I'm going to pass it. She knows my game. That's why I always look for her before I look for anybody else."

As similar as their games have become, Nicholson and Harrison could not be much more different in demeanor. Nicholson runs on a fiery intensity that sometimes gets her into trouble while Harrison is all serious concentration.

Harrison brings a calming effect to the whole team but especially to Nicholson. Against St. Frances at the Holly and Hoops Tournament, Nicholson was ejected after a fight nearly broke out between her and two St. Frances players.

"If I was in the game with her, she wouldn't have gotten thrown out," said Harrison, who was on the bench for a breather. "I understand exactly what she's feeling. I know that she just doesn't know how to handle some things, and I have to tell her, 'Tiki, is it really worth it?' "

This year, both players have stepped into leadership positions as well as new positions on the floor. Nicholson moved to point guard and Harrison to shooting guard, but the changes have not hurt the No. 2-ranked Bears, now 10-2 and the only team unbeaten in the Howard County league.

Still, the adjustment is a difficult one, especially for Nicholson, who likes to shoot and led the team with 16.5 points a game last year.

Even though her average has dropped to 10.8, Nicholson scored her 1,000th point two weeks ago and is fourth on Hammond's all-time scoring list with 1,023 points. Last year, she set a Bears single-game record with 30 points, but now she's working to boost her three assists per game average.

Harrison, with new confidence in her outside shot, is closing in on the season record for most three-pointers. She has 13, just four shy of the mark. Averaging 12 points, Harrison has moved up to eighth on the all-time scoring list with 791.

Over the years, the two have become so close as players and friends that they hope to play basketball for the same college. Harrison, who holds a 2.8 grade-point average, has met the SAT requirement; Nicholson is still working toward hers.

But before they leave Hammond, Nicholson and Harrison have unfinished business. To them, another state championship is the xTC only logical ending to their high school careers.

"If we didn't win, I'd feel I fell short of one of my goals," said Harrison, "but I don't think anything can stop us but ourselves. Any game we lose this year is because we beat ourselves."

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