N. Harford's James gets her 500th win

Hawks' 51-36 victory over C. Milton Wright is milestone for coach

High Schools

Girls basketball

January 30, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

The celebration started early last night in Pylesville.

With the North Harford girls basketball team well on its way to a 51-36 victory over C. Milton Wright, the crowd turned its attention to the Hawks' bench, where Lin James sat, just seconds away from her milestone 500th career coaching victory.

A chant of "That's 500" started and the crowd, which included many of the North Harford coach's former players over the past 35 years, gave James a standing ovation.

Never one to welcome the individual attention, James finally stood up from the bench, gave a thumbs-up sign and acknowledged the cheers.

"The greatest thing about it was the response people gave me," said James, still sporting celebratory gold streamers around her neck. "That was very nice. I'm glad these kids came through for me. I didn't want them to feel the pressure."

All season, James tried to keep the pending milestone a secret, fearing that if her team found out, it would put too much pressure on the Hawks.

But much to James' dismay, word leaked out a couple of weeks ago how close the coach was to 500 wins. The Hawks responded last night with one of their best efforts of the season.

"The team wanted this pressure because we wanted to get this for her," said senior Christina Gibson, who scored a game-high 17. "This was one of the most intense games we've ever played, and I think wanting to get 500 for her had a lot to do with it."

North Harford (8-7, 4-2 in the Chesapeake Division of the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference) never trailed the Mustangs (11-4, 4-3) after the 4-minute mark of the first quarter when junior guard Kim Griffin gave the Hawks an 8-7 lead.

With her team leading 28-15 at halftime, a nervous James, whose 500-226 record also includes two years of coaching at Langford High in Augusta, Ga., told her team to "go out there and get this over with."

When the final buzzer sounded after a game in which all 11 Hawks played, Gibson grabbed the game ball and brought it to James, who celebrated with her players and some of the fans.

Gibson, who will play lacrosse next year at Syracuse, vowed to include her role in James' accomplishment in her bio in next year's Syracuse media guide. Griffin, who scored 12 points, took it even further, saying, "I am going to remember this night forever."

And so will James.

"I remember a lot of the games - some we won, some we lost," said James, whose team faces league-leader Aberdeen today at 5:30 p.m. "And yeah, of course, this will be one of the milestones. These kids will always be special because they helped me get this."

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