They look like choirboys, play at an all-out pace and are intimidated by no one. C. Milton Wright senior twins John and Chad Bowman are two of the top players in the Harford County Basketball League.
Together and apart they have been spelling trouble for the opposition, and while their dedication, enthusiasm and team play have caught on with teammates, all are discovering games are won by putting the ball in the basket.
Wright won five of its first seven games, including a 3-1 county start, but came upon hard times recently, losing twice to league-leading Edgewood and to 18th-ranked Perry Hall. It could have won at least two of them.
The Mustangs regrouped this weekend with a 66-46 victory over Elkton yesterday and a 62-46 win over Havre de Grace on Friday night.
"We're still very positive," Chad said. "And we've got the T-shirts with our motto -- 'Cole is the Goal' -- to keep us focused."
He and John have not always been as focused about their favorite sport.
"We quit the first organized team we played for and didn't play the next year, either," John recalled. "Then, our parents signed us up for a Y league. We had a good coach, and it was a great experience."
This was in Boston, where the family was living at the time. They moved to Bel Air when the boys were high school freshmen, and the two have come through two years of JV and two years of varsity basketball to go with honors in the classroom.
Last season, Wright started 4-1 in the county, then lost six in a row, and staggered in 8-14 overall, 6-8 in the league. John led the county in three-point shooting (25 of 50), and Chad in foul shooting, (34 of 42, 81 percent). Chad was near the top in assists (4.0).
Over the summer, the two worked an outdoor court to death, emphasizing dribbling drills and putting up a variety of shots -- more than 400 -- every day. Neighbor and classmate Mike Sprouse, an All-Metro football player, tried to get them to go out and play video games or do something else, without success. The twins also shunned Sprouse's suggestion of joining him in lifting weights.
Although coach George Constantine admits a lot of players have more athletic ability, he says the Bowmans get the job done with desire and hard work. Through the first seven games this season, John was second in county scoring with a 20-point average, led in foul shooting, and was second in three-point field goals, while Chad was among the leaders in assists and steals.
In the three straight losses thereafter, their play was not up to its usual caliber, but, as Constantine pointed out, "We wouldn't have been in position to win if not for them."
For instance, in those losses, John averaged 10 points, but that wasn't the whole story.
Havre de Grace limited him to seven points, his lowest total of the season, in their first meeting, and one of the Warriors was chiding him about it afterward. "Our box-and-one [defense] really bothered you, huh?" and John told him, "It didn't bother me, we won the game."
Constantine was talking about this kind of attitude when he said, The thing both really bring to this group is the fact they are extremely team-oriented. It shows among the other players.
"Eric McEvoy [senior starting guard] has improved dramatically through hard work; Kory McBride accepts a sixth-man role and brings a lot of enthusiasm; Brian King [senior starting center at 6-foot-1] is enthusiastic and must lead in taking charges. He's a solid rebounder, too, despite giving away inches to opposing centers.
"I could go through all 15 of our players and point out the positive things they do. Some may not get much playing time, but they contribute with hard work, and much of that is because of the Bowmans' leadership. Their play is contagious."
Constantine has long preached defense and the Mustangs are giving up the fewest points of any county team.
"We stress that, and it carries to the end of the bench," he said.
Or, as John said, "Offense wins games; defense wins championships. We take pride in our defense."
Another positive the twins bring to the game, Constantine said, is an awareness of each other's roles; they know what it takes to win. In Chad's words, "I pass; he shoots."
Constantine sees it differently.
"Last year, Chad moved in at point guard, but John got little playing time. He refused to get discouraged and has made himself into a good all-around player," he said. "He's more than a shooter; he's a scorer, one who works to get himself open."