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Woodlawn boys basketball tops Catonsville, advances to Baltimore County final

Woodlawn's TJ Owens gets a hug from his dad, Teron, after the Warriors defeated Catonsville, 69-63. Owens scored 18 points against the school where his dad coaches junior varsity and played on its 1992 state championship team.
Woodlawn's TJ Owens gets a hug from his dad, Teron, after the Warriors defeated Catonsville, 69-63. Owens scored 18 points against the school where his dad coaches junior varsity and played on its 1992 state championship team. (Staff photo by Craig Clary)

A Division II championship was on the line Monday night at Catonsville High, but Woodlawn High senior TJ Owens had more incentive than just helping the Warriors get to the Baltimore County championship game and play Hereford on Tuesday at Towson University's SECU Arena.

He was looking for family bragging rights in the game against the team where his father, Teron, played on Catonsville's 1992 Class 3A state championship basketball team.

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TJ had even more incentive because his dad coaches Catonsville's junior varsity and TJ played on the Comets' JV under a different coach as a freshman before transferring to Woodlawn because his father taught there.

TJ, a Catonsville resident, still has friends on the Comets' basketball team

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Co-captains Owens and Aaron Longus combined for 28 points and 6-foot-8 center Cedric Mondjii added 11 points to lead the Warriors to a 69-63 victory in a contest plagued by 51 fouls, including 30 against host Catonsville.

Woodlawn improved to 15-6 overall and 11-0 in the division, while the Comets dropped to 12-8 and 8-2 in the league.

Owens, who has two younger brothers playing soccer and football at Catonsville High, was booed every time he touched the ball for most of the game and he responded with 18 points, including 11 of 15 from the foul line.

Asked if he was nervous, he responded, 'Of course, Of course. That's why I missed those first two shots, but other than that, I had to get in rhythm and into the game," he said.

In fact, he missed all three of his field goal attempts in the first quarter when he was held scoreless.

"We know TJ is their shooter and their quarterback so we wanted to get the ball out of his hands and we know when somebody else fires it up, we got to box out but they got some putbacks," Catonsville coach Matt Fannon said.

Catonsville led 15-13 after the first quarter as Eric Sheppard (14 points) and Antwan Pearson (12 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocked shots) each scored six points and Pearson had three blocked shots.

A free throw by Jeff Sewell (8 points) and short jumper by Ross Kidd bumped the lead to 18-13, but four missed layups by the Comets helped the Warriors creep back and take a 29-27 at halftime.

"On our side, we said it's going to come down to free throws and layups and we missed quite a few layups and we were just under 70 percent (66 percent) in free throw shooting," Fannon said.

Owens had eight points in the quarter and Deontay Marshall's three-pointer gave the Warriors a 27-26 lead.

The game was tied 34-34 in the third quarter when Owens made the biggest defensive play of the night. He blocked the shot of 6-foot-5 Musa Wichhart on a fast break.

"That fired us up," Owens said. "Once we get our rhythm and our momentum, it's over."

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With 4:42 left in the third quarter Owens banked in a three-pointer for a 37-34 lead and the Warriors never trailed again.

Rashard Rice scored two baskets to help Woodlawn build the lead to 45-38 before Catonsville's Zach Caslin hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 45-41 with 20 seconds left in the quarter.

A layup by Kevin Parrish and free throw from Nate Chambers (14 points) pulled the Comets within one, 45-44, with 6:58 remaining, but Marshall made his second three-pointer of the night and the Warriors led 48-44.

Woodlawn scored 17 of its final 21 points from the free throw line on 23 attempts and salted away the victory.

"Coach has been stressing free throws, free throws, free throws," Owens said. "If we get them, we win the game. That and defense."

Making his free throws and getting the clutch swat is exactly what his father likes to see.

"I always told him you want to be a well-rounded player," said his dad. "When I trained him I asked him, 'What do you do when your shot is off?' You've got to be able to do something to affect the game so he always understood that."

Asked how he prepared for the game, the younger Owens responded, "My Catonsville buddies (Pearson and Sewell) came over the house."

And what about playing at his former school?

"It felt great to be honest with you," he said.

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