Aberdeen, Havre de Grace hit the semifinals running Bring balanced attacks into tourney matchups

March 08, 1996|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

Aberdeen and Havre de Grace will put similar running styles on display when they play in the semifinals of the 63rd state boys basketball tournament tonight in College Park.

As part of the four-game card at Cole Field House, No. 10 Havre de Grace (18-5) will play Williamsport (21-5) in Class 1A at 5 p.m., and No. 6 Aberdeen (22-2) will play Middletown (21-4) in Class 2A at 9 p.m.

The earlier matchup will feature teams dominated by senior starters, as Havre de Grace has five and Williamsport four. Guard Billy Jackson, an All-Metro quarterback for Havre de Grace last fall, is his team's catalyst.

A 13.7 average makes him one of three starters scoring in double figures, and all five starters are between eight and 15.4. Jackson, who directs the attack, also averages five assists and four steals.

In the regional final, an 84-72 victory at Sparrows Point, leading scorer J. R. Clark went out with an ankle injury in the first minute and did not return. He is still considered questionable for tonight. "Al Mann came in for him, and he and John Sawyer really stepped up for us," said coach George Leonard.

Both 6-foot-1 forwards, they dominated the scoring and rebounding. Mann filled in with 19 points, and Sawyer had 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half.

Williamsport features team quickness, too, and is good in transition, but able to be patient in working its offense.

Twin 6-0 guards Alan and Brad Moore are state starters for a third successive year, and the team is in the semifinals for the fifth time (all losses) in the past six seasons.

A third holdover is 6-6 junior Andy Artz, the Wildcats' scoring (15.4) and rebounding leader (9.3). "At the start we tried to fill in around them, but we knew eventually we would be good," said Kevin Murphy, in his 19th year as head coach.

Aberdeen comes in with a 17-game winning streak, including decisions over the two schools to which it lost -- C. Milton Wright and, in the regional quarterfinals, North East. Middletown has won its past 11.

The Harford County team sends out a unit that has balanced scoring and rebounding to go with aggressive defense, and offers a lot of weapons. Among them are 6-6 Gabe Neal, shooters Adam Vesely and Tommie Mims, and top defender Mark Stevens and point guard James Smith outside. Smith, a 5-9 junior, averages seven assists and three steals.

"We're getting contributions from a lot of people, and hopefully peaking at the right time," said coach Ron Petrey.

Middletown has a starting five that plays especially well together, but the reserves lack size (only one taller than 6-2) and are limited in their scoring and rebounding.

Still, this is a team that, in its past two regional games, whacked Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Wheaton -- two teams with speed and an up-tempo style similar to the way Aberdeen plays.

Pub Date: 3/08/96

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