The Panthers (7-1 overall) moved to 5-0 in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference, while the Dragons dropped to 5-4 and 2-1 respectively.
“Baltimore City is a very talented team. They have a number of guys who are capable of filling it up,” HCC coach Mike Smelkinson said. “We had a bad start, dug ourselves in a hole and eventually the time ran out. If you take away that start, I think we played them even.”
Despite the setback to league leading BCCC, Howard has been steadily improving early in the season. After beginning the winter with a 1-3 mark, the Dragons have begun to jell on the court.
“The team is coming together and we will be a big problem once all the chemistry is down pat,” said sophomore guard James Peters (Oakland Mills). “Once we get going, we’re hard to stop. When everyone plays their roles and execute what coach wants, then I think we can be unstoppable.”
The team’s four-game winning streak began with a 97-73 win over Westmoreland CC on Nov 17. In that game, Jazmon Harris scored a team-high 16 points, while Peters and Tyrell Addison each contributed 15.
Three days later, the Dragons collected a 102-95 decision over Southern Maryland. The team shot close to 60 percent from the field with Alie Kondeh scoring 27 points.
Five players scored in double figures in both a 90-87 victory over CCBC-Essex and a 100-97 overtime triumph over host Northern Virginia CC last week.
A key contributor for Howard has been freshman guard James Bartnik (Howard). Since his insertion into the starting lineup against Westmoreland, he has helped stabilize the Dragons’ backcourt.
“James Bartnik brings poise,” Smelkinson said. “He is a very smart player who is deceptive. He's a steady player who can pass, rebound and score when we need a basket. Without him, we could have lost some of these close games.”
Kondeh leads the team in scoring, averaging 14.2 points per game. Harris contributes 11 points per contest, while freshman Kayode Ajenifuja has been a spark plug off the bench, adding close to 11 points a night.
Smelkinson likes where his team is headed, but he knows there is room for improvement.
“We need to get better defensively,” Smelkinson said. “We have shown that we can score the basketball. Once we change our mindset to get consecutive stops throughout the course of the game, we will be a dangerous team for anyone who is left on our schedule.”