Junior forward Jalen Bourne had a big second half to lead the Golden Bears past the Wildecats on Jan. 5. (Kyle Stackpole / BSMG staff)
HOWARD COUNTY, MD — It was a tale of two halves for Hammond boys basketball forward Jalen Bourne, whose inside dominance kept his team toe to toe with visiting Wilde Lake on Friday night.
The 6-foot-7 junior scored 10 of his game-high 14 points after the break as the Golden Bears held off the Wildecats, 44-42, for their second county win and first in nearly a month.
“The difference in the game was the big boy dominating the second half,” Hammond coach Mike Salapata said. “Every time he got the ball down in the block, he got a bucket or got a good shot out of it.”
The crucial play in the game actually came from junior guard Micah Henry. With under a minute to play and the score knotted at 42, Henry grabbed the offensive rebound, took one dribble and rose for a midrange jump shot that rattled through the hoop.
Junior Trea Keys (14 points) then lost control of the ball on Wilde Lake’s ensuing trip down the floor, and it ended up in the hands of Henry to all but seal the victory.
Hammond was in that position mainly because of Bourne, who accounted for eight of the team’s 10 points in the third quarter to keep the Golden Bears ahead after three periods.
And despite scoring two points in the final frame, his presence in the paint kept the group’s offense running smoothly and limited Wilde Lake’s inside scoring down the stretch.
“I was getting a feel for my defender,” Bourne said. “What moves he bit, what openings were in the defense and what I could do, what I couldn’t do, which way I could go, which way I couldn’t go.
“It just started to work in the second half.”
In the first two periods, Salapata said the big man looked for the contact instead of exploding towards the rim when he caught the ball down low. Bourne’s post moves were still fairly successful but proved useless because he left his layups short.
While his struggles around the rim were costly, they were fixable. And with both teams failing to hit shots with any consistency in the first half, Hammond could criticize and motivate Bourne while holding a 23-22 advantage at intermission.
“I’ve been telling him all year that somebody his size, little bumps, it’s like the Shaq thing in the NBA,” Salapata said. “You’re not going to get the call. So you literally got to go and put the idea that you’re going to dunk everything.”
Wilde Lake stayed competitive amid Bourne’s third-quarter scoring effort. The Wildecats were also forced to play without senior forward and second-leading scorer George Hunter, who left early in the game with a head injury.
Coach Deon Wingfield commended his players for that resilience, and he believes those characteristics can help Wilde Lake (1-4, 1-8) turn its season around.
But with a chance to secure a quality road win, the Wildecats faltered at the foul line, missing two straight 1-and-1 opportunities. They missed 11 free throws in total, a number Wingfield said is too high for a group trying to squeak out a tight-knit contest.