Overlea bounces back, now shoots for more

Falcons ride hot streak since end of 39-game skid

High Schools

February 06, 2000|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Overlea junior April Johnson stands right in the middle of the most remarkable turnaround in high school basketball this season, and she has a message for doubters.

"I just want to make sure everybody knows Overlea got game," Johnson said. "Our team has a lot of ability and athleticism, but it takes a whole lot to bring it out, because of the past."

"The past" refers to 39 straight losses.

The Falcons struggled for two seasons, often landing on the wrong end of lopsided scores. Several times last season, they failed to score in double figures.

That's over now.

Behind new coach Adam Burleson, the Falcons not only have stopped the losing steak, but they have a .500 record. They even have a chance to win Baltimore County's Division III title.

After starting 0-5, the Falcons won their first game in nearly three years on Jan. 12, defeating Patapsco, 33-21. Since then, they have won six of seven. They are 6-6 overall and 6-3 in Division III.

"It's basically a unity thing," Johnson said. "Everybody is putting their desire into wanting to play together. Last year, everybody was in it for themselves."

Burleson, a Sparrows Point graduate straight out of Towson University, had no coaching experience and no expectations when he arrived at Overlea.

"What I wanted to do was stay away from the whole we're-going-to-win-a-game-and-break-the- streak thing," Burleson said. "When I first started at Sparrows Point, we were 0-64. I know 0-39 sounds bad, but I knew what they were going through. I really wanted to start building a program and not settle for just a one-win thing."

The players responded to Burleson's back-to-basics approach.

"Certainly, we have the athletes," he said. "What they needed was some fundamental work and some team concepts. They were quick enough and athletic enough to play a very good defense so we worked on defensive philosophy. They really have come a long way."

The Falcons are now beating teams they lost to at the beginning of the season. Tuesday, they evened things with Owings Mills, 46-32. Friday night, they won their second game from Patapsco, 48-42.

Point guard Johnson, who scored 21 in each of the last two games, averages 16.

Senior guard Myesha Thompson, who scored 14 against Owings Mills, averages 10, while senior center Sharice Johnson contributes seven. Senior Sara Johnson, April's sister, and sophomore Erica Hunt round out the starting lineup.

Despite their success, the Falcons have not celebrated much, even after they beat Patapsco the first time.

"Everybody was happy that we won," Johnson said, "but the minute after the game, we said, `This is what we have to do.' We broke the streak, but we don't want to just break the streak, we want to leave a legacy."

Pub Date: 2/06/00

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