Centennial cheers O'Connor's return

With doctor's OK, senior back on court for Eagles


January 21, 2001|By Kevin Van Valkenburg and Stan Rappaport | Kevin Van Valkenburg and Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

He didn't start, he didn't play many minutes, and he scored only four points. And still, he got a standing ovation.

No doubt about it, everyone was happy to see Centennial's Brian O'Connor back for Friday's home game against Atholton. O'Connor had missed the Eagles' three previous games after being diagnosed with a heart condition known as Woff-Parkinson-White syndrome, an abnormality that can cause a rapid and irregular heartbeat. O'Connor was hospitalized with the condition after Centennial's Jan. 5 game against River Hill.

But doctors corrected the condition with a procedure called a catheter ablation, and after undergoing stress tests Thursday, O'Connor received medical clearance from his doctor to play again, something that seemed unlikely when he was first diagnosed.

"The stress test went really well and the doctors gave me the go-ahead to play," O'Connor said. "It felt really good to just be back playing again."

Centennial coach Jim Hill didn't want to rush O'Connor back, and the situation wasn't dire - the Eagles comfortably got past Atholton, 67-41 - so he only played his senior captain about seven minutes each half. The result: two layups, followed by two thunderous roars from the Centennial crowd.

"The whole Centennial community has been so supportive of me," O'Connor said. "The parents, players and my friends have all been great."

O'Connor's return didn't hurt the Eagles either, who were coming off a 54-49 loss to Oakland Mills on Thursday.

"More than the fact that Brian's a great basketball player, he's a great leader," Hill said. "He leads by example. I think his return will help us play more consistently."

Centennial is now 8-2 in league play, 10-4 overall.

Long Reach (8-1, 11-2 league) remains the team to beat thus far, but several other squads continue to fight for position in an extremely balanced county race.

Mount Hebron is beginning to perform as many thought they would at the beginning of the season, having won five of its past seven games, including consecutive wins over River Hill, Wilde Lake and Howard.

Coach John Aquila attributes the Vikings' resurgence to defense. Mount Hebron is giving up only 50 points a game this season, and no one has scored more than 57, which Howard did in the team's first meeting.

Mount Hebron won the rematch, 57-46, on Friday, however, getting a career-high 13 points from Kweisi Wright, who stepped up in the absence of Matt White. White was in Indianapolis for an awards banquet, after being named a high school All-American in soccer last fall.

River Hill (4-5, 6-7) travels to Long Reach at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow for the only game of the week, but it should be a good one. The Hawks have one of the biggest front lines in the league in 6-foot-10 center Kevin Steenberge and 6-foot-5 forward Alex Nowak, but Long Reach is one of the few teams that can match up with them, countering with 6-foot-5 forward Josh Gross and 6-foot-3 forward Nick Andrews.

Girls basketball

Fourth-ranked Mount Hebron (13-1 overall, 9-1 league) made six fewer field goals than host Howard (4-10, 2-8) on Friday night, but came away with a 61-50 victory thanks to making 33 of 39 free throws.

Sophomore Kristen Waagbo (22 points) was 12-of-14 and senior Erin Jaschik (12) and junior Julie Napolitano (14) were both 8-of-10.

Howard, which lost to the Vikings by 22 points earlier this season, led 19-12 after one quarter and 32-30 at halftime. Tierra Cobbs had nine of her team-high 13 points and Kim Pyne had all seven of her points in the first half for the Lions. "They came out and shot the ball well," Mount Hebron coach Scott Robinson about the Lions.

Howard led 43-41 going into the final period, but was outscored 20-7. The Vikings were 14-of-16 from the line in the final period, led by Napolitano, who made seven of eight. Waagbo, Jaschik and Laura Carper were all 2-of-2, and Thera Wolven was 1-of-2.

"We were very composed down the stretch and made the most of each possession," Robinson said. "In the last four minutes, I thought we played tremendous."

Howard was held to just free throws in the final four minutes. The Lions made 19 baskets in the game, and were 10-of-15 from the line.

Two more players scored 30 points Friday night, bringing the number of players who have scored 30 or more this season to five.

Hammond junior Tara Zammichieli had 30 points - teammate Melissa Workman added 26 - in a 79-51 victory over Wilde Lake, and Oakland Mills sophomore Paris Buckner had 30 in her team's 66-58 overtime win over Glenelg.

Earlier this season, Workman and Oakland Mills senior Rayna DuBose each had 31-point games. Wilde Lake senior Grazia Silvestro topped the charts with a 38-point effort in her team's overtime win over Howard.

Exam week

This is exam week in the county, meaning practices and games are forbidden Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Full practices resume Friday afternoon, and a full slate of basketball games and some wrestling matches are scheduled Saturday.

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