Aberdeen painting the big picture

Eagles avenge loss, suffer routs in learning process

Boys basketball

January 19, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Aberdeen had just beaten rival Edgewood on its home court by 37 points, avenging three losses to the Rams last year - including a 36-point drubbing in the state playoffs.

But on the mind of Eagles junior forward Erin Henderson, who registered 14 points and 12 rebounds in Aberdeen's 84-47 victory before 850 at a sold-out Rams' gym on Friday, was the big picture, not the big payback.

"This feels good, but this is just another step to where we want to be," said Henderson, the brother of University of Maryland All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson. "We were not looking at this as the biggest game of the season. We're trying to make it to College Park. We want to play at the Comcast Center."

The Comcast Center is the site of this year's state tournament, and the championship aspirations the No. 16 Eagles (9-3, 7-0 Harford County) maintain were fueled by last year.

"It stuck with us all summer," said guard Dejon Brown, the team leader in assists, steals and blocks. "It made us want to work harder. In those games, we weren't playing as a team."

The tables have turned for the two programs, which have battled at the top of the county standings for years. Separated by a 15-minute drive, Aberdeen and Edgewood have been miles apart on the court this season and that was painfully obvious to the Rams on Friday.

Playing without point guard Ra'Son Alexander, who sat for disciplinary reasons, Edgewood (5-6, 3-4) hung tough early, but in a game contested largely on the foul line, the Rams wore down in the face of the bigger and more athletic Eagles.

A 16-1 run, which included seven of junior Shawn Lewis' 14 points, staked the Eagles to a 39-25 halftime lead. The spread was 58-35 by the start of the fourth.

"They are just so athletic, and if you make a mistake, they turn it into points," said Cole, no stranger to the rivalry as a former coach and player at Aberdeen. "They've gotten more physical and bigger and we've gotten quicker, but smaller."

Edgewood lost four starters to graduation, necessitating what Cole said was a rebuilding year.

Meanwhile, the junior-dominated Eagles boast an eight-player rotation that could easily be expanded to 10 without coach Richard Hart fearing a drop-off.

Henderson and Brown said this is the most united team they've been on, giving several examples.

There was a seven-point win over Joppatowne, where the Eagles called on some late-game grit and experience to deny the Mariners.

Playing against No. 7 St. Frances of the Baltimore Catholic League, the Eagles fell, 77-66, but not before showing some mettle and resiliency.

Then, there was Tuesday's game where the Eagles traveled to Rockville to take on Montrose Christian, which is ranked 11th in the nation in the National Prep Basketball Poll.

Even the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Henderson, who also plays football, found himself occasionally overmatched physically.

The result was a 105-35 loss and one big lesson learned.

"We took away a lot from that: the way they handled themselves and the intensity they played with," said Hart. "[Against Edgewood], we didn't worry about what the capabilities of our opponent were. We just played hard for the whole 32 minutes for the first time this season, and that's what we want to build off."

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