Hammond leads at halfway point, but race is on

Howard notebook

January 28, 1998|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

The second half of the league basketball season begins today, and the race for the county title is torrid.

Hammond, at 8-1, holds a one-game lead over Long Reach and Atholton, and a two-game lead over Oakland Mills.

And what makes the race especially interesting is the top-to-bottom, 10-team competitiveness of the league.

"There are no weak teams," Oakland Mills coach Dave Appleby said. "It makes things great for fans, tough on coaches."

Coach Mark Murray's No. 19-ranked Golden Bears, a senior-laden team that finished runner-up to Centennial last season, have established themselves as the team to beat.

Their only league loss was a two-point decision at Oakland Mills. The Bears have proven they can win close games, as evidenced by a 48-47 triumph over Mount Hebron and a 58-55 win over Centennial.

In the Mount Hebron game, the Bears trailed by four points with 17 seconds left, before Pat Lally sank two free throws and Jamar Wise drained a three-pointer at the buzzer.

Smart defense, few turnovers and good outside shooting are the key ingredients for Hammond's success. It also helps that, with seven seniors, it's one of the most experienced teams.

Hammond, 10-3 overall, starts the second half today at Glenelg. The Gladiators (4-9, 2-7), a young team with a deceiving record, have played well lately. In their last four games, they lost to both second-place teams, Atholton and Long Reach, in overtime.

Last Saturday, Glenelg defeated Centennial, 72-59. The Gladiators' lead was three points entering the final period. Dynamic point guard Brandon Robertson sank 11 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter to allow Glenelg to pull away.

"Centennial shot 3-for-20 from three-point range, and didn't really develop an inside game," said first-year Glenelg coach Jeremy Snyder. "Robertson was fantastic, and Jeff Starcher [23 points] was hitting on all cylinders. Eric Krausse and Eric Breland were consistent. We made only 20 turnovers and forced 24. Defensively, we confused them."

Scorps streak at four

Oakland Mills (7-6, 6-3) is the only team in the league that can say it has won four straight games. And one of those wins came against league-leading Hammond.

The Scorpions are led by high-scoring Murray Graves (20.3-point average), perhaps the best player in the league.

Scorpions coach Appleby knows that one player can't win games, however. Appleby obviously appreciates the huge part that the talented Graves is playing, but thinks that an equally important key is the scoring of Allen Scott, Thomas Browne and Adam Barr. "If we can get 30 points per game combined from those three, we will either win or be very close. And lately, they've quietly been doing their job, and that's why we've been having success."

Howard is hot

Howard, like Glenelg, is showing signs that it will be a tough team to beat in the second half.

Although Jabraille Jackson is averaging 19 points, the Lions are a team that depends upon defense. Howard (6-7, 4-5) lacks a strong outside game. The Lions defeated Wilde Lake on Saturday, 55-52, but for the third straight game scored only two baskets outside the paint.

"It's amazing we win games without hitting our outside shots," said first-year coach Craig O'Connell. "Wilde Lake has shooters. It seemed that every time we'd get a six-point lead, they'd hit a three-pointer. We rotate well and get good shot selection. We are actually shooting 48 percent from the floor, but that's because the shots we take are so close to the basket."

Pub Date: 1/28/98

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