The Hereford High boys basketball team concluded the school's best season in school history with a 76-44 loss to Patterson in the first round of the playoffs on Feb. 25 and the diehard Bull fans still celebrated until the final buzzer.
It has been a season of excitement for the enthusiastic fans, as evidenced by the 700 tickets that went on sale for the Patterson game at the school cafeteria during lunch on Feb. 22 and were sold out the next day.
Fans were eager to see how the second-seeded Bulls (19-4) would fare against randomly-selected 15th seeded Patterson (17-7) and its standout junior guard Aquille Carr in the Class 3A North Region's first round.
The 5-foot-6-inch, 140-pound Carr has committed to Seton Hall for the 2013-14 season.
Nicknamed 'Crime Stopper,' because the crime rate goes down in Baltimore City because of huge crowds attending his home games, is regarded one of the best prep guards in the nation.
Rather than sulk over the tough first-round opponent, the Hereford fans, players and coach Jim Rhoads embraced the opportunity to face Carr and the Clippers, who also employed 6-foot-10 Leonard Livingston and plenty of other talented players.
Carr, who one day could be winning the hearts of NBA fans, made an impression with the younger fans and signed autographs after the game for kids who were nearly as tall as him.
Carr finished with 23 points and dazzled fans with some mesmerizing crossover dribbles and a riveting two-handed blocked shot from behind when he showed off his 48-inch vertical leap.
"I wasn't as worried about him as much as I was about everybody else because when he starts driving and dishing they can finish," Rhoads said.
That started after a quiet first quarter for Carr, who had only two free throws in the period.
The Bulls fed off the energy from the hometown fans, who erupted at the end of quarter when the Hereford took a 9-8 lead on a late three-pointer by Josh Reider.
Patterson's defensive quickness and 12 points from Carr staked them to a 34-19 halftime lead and they never looked back.
"When they started pressing they got control of the tempo of the game," Rhoads said. "When we slowed down, we were turning it over and doing things we don't usually do like getting shots blocked."
Overall, he knew the reality of the quality opponent.
"I thought we played pretty well," Rhoads said. "I would not say, 'Oh gosh, if we had played better, we would have won that game."
Hereford was led by senior Devon Young (14 points) and junior Jack Adams (10 points).
Young, a Third Team All-County selection and Second Team All-Division pick, was the catalyst for the greatest Hereford team in history.
The senior point guard averaged a team-high 18 points a game.
He scored a season-high 32 points in a 53-45 victory over Woodlawn.
In that game, he made 11 of 12 field goals and converted six three-pointers.
"He was a great team player all year," Rhoads said. "When you have your best player, who will pass the ball, and run the offense, and he can play defense, you can't beat it."
Young sensed the team had ability late last season.
"Last year I told them next year is going to be our year," he said. "At the first practice, I knew this team was going to be good."
Junior Joe Seider, the Bulls' second leading scorer (11 ppg.) and rebounder (6.5 rpg.), was a little more skeptical.
"The first couple weeks we were real bad," Seider said.
After back-to-back losses to Patapsco and Dulaney during the same week in January, the Bulls reeled off 10 straight victories before the loss to Patterson.
"We just played well together," Seider said.
With each win, they also formed a bond with the fans.
"It was awesome," Seider said. "All of our home games were really fun."
The 6-foot-3 Adams led the squad in rebounding (8.0) and dominated the middle of the paint.
"He was phenomenal out there at center," Rhoads said. "He rebounded and he played great defense. When you have somebody in the back that can control the game defensively you are not afraid to go out and play (perimeter) defense," Rhoads said.
The Bulls also got some solid inside work from seniors Jake Ensor and Zach Bosley and sophomore Tarence Clark and backcourt help from Reider and senior Brian Clarke.
"We had a really good chemistry and the kids all knew their roles and they all liked each other," Rhoads said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun