If the North Carroll boys basketball team goes on to claim the Carroll County title this season, the Panthers will have one aspect of their game to thank for it.
The best depth in the county.
That kind of bench means that starting guards Garrett Williams, David Birnie and Jason Wheatley and forwards Chris Walker and Kenny Krieger can play just a little harder and perhaps a little more aggressively, without the fear of fatigue or foul trouble.
"We can go 110 percent, then know that we'll have someone coming in behind us that is going to play just as hard," Wheatley said.
Senior guard Erik Aspril is usually the team's first player off the bench, and he is quickly followed by forward Ricky Silver, and guards Jordan Parker and Andy Levy. In addition, Ford often will alternate Bryan Johnson and Josh Yacovissi, depending on which junior he feels can be more effective given the flow of the game.
"I don't know if [the depth] changes how I approach the game ... but I think it may help them realize that they can go hard and not have to save energy at the offensive end so they can stay on the floor longer," Ford said.
"They rely on each other. I'll have kids grumbling because they don't want to come off the floor, but as soon as they sit on the bench they're supporting whoever is out there. There isn't any animosity or jealousy about who's getting the most minutes."
In fact, there have been times this season when, following his normal rotation, Ford has found all five of his starters on the bench at the same time.
Wheatley said the team's selfless nature stems from the fact that most of the players grew up together and continue to be close friends.
That camaraderie has led to impressive results, with the Panthers (13-10 last season) sitting at 11-4 heading into this weekend's play. That includes a pair of wins against preseason county favorite Winters Mill.
"To beat them twice gives us a lot of confidence to know that we can play with anybody," Wheatley said.
Said Ford: We know that if we can win the games we need to win, that nobody can take the title from us. We're there."
Francis Scott Key cross country and track standout Arthur Leathers has committed to attend Robert Morris University in the fall.
The senior, who was named The Sun's Carroll County Runner of the Year last fall after winning county, Monocacy Valley Athletic League Blue Ridge Conference and Class 2A West titles, said he chose the school over the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and the University of New Haven, both for its academics and its program.
"They're an up and coming team that will be good in two or three years," Leathers said. "I believe I can contribute right away. I didn't want to be red-shirted the first year."
The South Carroll girls soccer team was one of 258 in the nation -- and just four in the Baltimore metro area -- to earn a 2007 High School Team Academic Award from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, the organization announced.
The award honors teams that collectively achieved at least a 3.25 grade point average during the 2006-07 school year. South Carroll's GPA was 3.79.
"They say that if you're good in academics, chances are you're going to be a more committed and dedicated athlete," Cavaliers coach Jerry Janowich said. "I think that really holds true. It keeps them more focused because there are times when they'll get home at 8:30 after a game, and they've got to go home and hit the books right away. I think both of them feed off each other."
Other local girls teams receiving the honor were Baltimore County's Carver A&T, Catonsville and Dulaney, and Anne Arundel County's Northeast.
Four area boys teams -- Broadneck, Calvert Hall, Catonsville and Loch Raven -- received the honor.
A half dozen wrestlers from Carroll County schools are included in the latest rankings from the Maryland State Wrestling Association.
The list is led by a pair of South Carroll wrestlers -- Cam Hobin (119 pounds) and Tyler Mullen (171) -- who each are ranked second in their weight classes. Others include North Carroll's Jason Thomen (third at 215), South Carroll's Zac Stavish (sixth at 160), South Carroll's Chris Wampler (honorable mention at 103) and North Carroll's Jeremy Seipp (honorable mention at 130).
To submit news and story ideas about Carroll County high school athletics, contact Rich Scherr at CarrollSports@comcast.net.
Depth aids North Carroll boys basketball
Panthers have two wins over preseason county favorite Winters Mill
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