1996-97 All-Howard County boys basketball

March 18, 1997|By Rick Belz and Stan Rappaport

Coach of the Year

Jim Hill, Centennial: Only one other team in county history ever approached the kind of record that Centennial produced this season. None ever won its first 22 games. Hill, 46, has coached the varsity for 13 seasons and this was Centennial's third county championship in the past five years -- but the first outright title. It took Centennial 17 years to win its first championship. Using a motion offense and man-to-man defense, the Eagles outdistanced their county competition by a wide margin. The defense held opponents below 40 points five times and below 50 points 12 times. Centennial gave up 60 points only twice. A bad lottery draw in the regional playoffs made Centennial a seventh seed in a seven-team Class 3A region, and sent the Eagles on the road to second-seeded Broadneck (20-5), where they lost by two points in the quarterfinals. His 13-season county coaching record is 162-150. His overall record is 206-170.

Player of the Year

Matt Laycock, Centennial, Sr., C: Laycock was a powerful inside force and the most consistent player in the league. Eight times he scored 20 or more points in leading the Eagles to an unprecedented 22-0 record before they finally lost to Broadneck in the Class 3A East region quarterfinals, 53-51. He led the county in scoring with an 18.2 average, and his high game was 33 points against Linganore. He scored 25 and 18 in Centennial's two showdowns against Mount Hebron, the league's second-best team. Laycock also averaged 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He shot 57 percent from the field and 75 percent at the foul line. His athleticism and mobility were outstanding. In the last two seasons with Laycock at center, Centennial's record was 40-7. This is his second selection to the first team. As a Parade Magazine All-America in soccer, he is headed to North Carolina on a soccer scholarship.

The first team

C. J. Adams, Wilde Lake, Sr., G: His coach Lester Clay asked a lot of Adams -- to both run the offense and score. "This is the first time I've ever had a point guard lead my team in scoring," Clay said. Adams averaged 15.6 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals. He shot 88-for-201 (45 percent) from the field and 29-for-44 (68 percent) from the foul line. In Wilde Lake's near-upset of Central in the regional semifinals, Adams scored 25. "He finished his drives and gave consistent defensive pressure," Clay said. "And he listened. He was a much better player by the end of the season."

Scott Bross, Centennial, Sr., G: "He truly made our team go," Eagles coach Jim Hill said. "He saw the whole floor and seldom turned the ball over." As point guard, Bross was the obvious leader and typified the fierce competitiveness of Centennial. A multi-faceted player who was much quicker than he appeared to be, Bross could drive and score, or score off rebounds. He averaged 6.5 points, 5.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 4.3 steals. He shot 47 percent from the floor and 74 percent at the foul line. A heady player with a 3.8 grade-point average and 1,340 SAT, Bross turned down acceptance at Harvard to attend Duke, where he will be the Blue Devils' faceoff man. Bross will earn 10 varsity letters in football (3), basketball (3) and lacrosse (4) and has been first-team all-county in all three sports.

Devin Conwell, Long Reach, Fr., F: A rugged inside player who sacrificed his 6-foot-1 body repeatedly against bigger players, Conwell is one of the most accomplished freshman in county history and produced one of the best freshman seasons ever. He led the league in rebounding with 10 per game. And he averaged 14.5 points. His high game was 27 points against Atholton. Conwell led first-year Long Reach, which had no seniors, to the state Class 1A finals, where the Lightning lost to heavily favored No. 13 Edgewood in a close game despite Conwell's 20-point, 17-rebound effort. He averaged 16.5 points and 15.5 rebounds for two state playoff games. His brother, Irving, was an All-Metro pick from Oakland Mills last season and now plays for Mount St. Mary's.

Brian Otten, Centennial, Sr., F: Defense was Otten's main focus, although he averaged 8.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He shot 50 percent from the floor and 73 percent at the foul line. "Whatever it takes described Brian. He was as much the glue that held us together as anyone, and rarely made a mistake," Hill said. "He always guarded the opponent's best-shooting forward, and was our backup point guard. He was the hardest player for opponents to match up against, because he had the quickest first step on our team and could shoot from outside. He was unafraid to take a clutch shot." Otten scored 16 points in a victory over Oakland Mills when Laycock could not play. And with Laycock missing against Hammond, Otten sank three free throws for the winning margin in a 40-38 victory. He'll play soccer for Maryland.

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