Not surprisingly, the coach and his leading scorer have a slight disagreement. Nothing major, but each sees a different turning point in Catonsville's 19-2 season.
To coach Art Gamzon, the Comets' 12-point loss to Lake Clifton in a Christmas tournament, "was an awfully big game for us. I think we gained their respect because we hung on until the last few minutes. The kids became convinced this would be another special season."
Teron Owens, the Comets' slender 6-foot-3 senior tri-captain and leading scorer (21.2 points), had another perspective. "It wasn't even a good moment for us," he said. "It was losing to Dulaney."
That one-point loss to the Lions a few weeks ago after beating them earlier in the season, "opened our eyes that we could get beat by anybody. That anger we took out on our opponents."
Since that loss the Comets had 38-point wins on consecutive days, followed by 18- and 17-point victories over Woodlawn and Parkville, then a 99-67 win Tuesday over Dundalk. They are dominating the Baltimore County 4A-3A division.
In fact, on the heels of last year's 25-1 squad, which didn't lose until the state championship game, Catonsville is 44-3 overall, 38-1 in the county over two seasons. The Comets are scoring an average of 80.5 points per game while giving up just 58.3. And they're doing it without a dominating player and with little height.
"We generally have three and four kids in double figures," said Gamzon. James "Poops" Lewis, a 6-1, 200 pound junior, is the "big" man, averaging 16 points and 12.1 rebounds. Senior captain Rob Reich, 6-2, contributes 14.7 and is the designated three-point shooter.
Among the three starters lost from last year's state finalists were both guards, including second-team All-Metro Dave Clark. But senior captain Travis Terrell and junior Ron Hill have performed well. "Those two give us the best perimeter defense we've had," said Gamzon. "They're only about 5-8 but put good pressure on the ball."
And though this year's backcourt is smaller than last, it compensates with quickness. "We're faster than last year," Owens said. "Terrell pushes the rock. We have to keep up with the little guys." They've kept up well enough for Terrell to average 6.1 assists.
Seniors Eric Prince, the sixth man at guard, and Antonio Miles, a 6-1 leaper and shot-blocker, are the key reserves.
In an age of transiency, Catonsville is a throwback to an era of neighborhood teams. Reich said he's played with Terrell since he was eight, Prince since nine and Lewis since 11. "We have real good unity," he said. "The chemistry is right. That's a really big thing in basketball."
And Owens, who transferred in from DeMatha last year, has fit right in. "We love playing with each other," he said. "It's the closeness we have as a team. If we see one person down, we all try to pick him up. We clap hands; we'll hug you. We're like a big family. That carried over from last year."
And the Comets have successfully carried over the pressure, man-to-man defense and transition offense from last year -- a different team with a different personality but playing with the same intensity.
They've earned the top seed for Class 3A in Region II and will host a playoff game on Thursday, March 5.
"I knew we'd have a good season," Gamzon said. "I just didn't know how good."