Aberdeen and C. Milton Wright took turns running off a string of points, but when push came to shove an Aberdeen defensive show paved the way for a bruising 72-58 Harford County League victory at home last night.
Two three-point shots by John Bowman sent Wright (11-6) to a 35-24 lead a minute into the third quarter, but some tough defense and balanced scoring inside and out boosted Aberdeen (14-5) to a 47-42 lead going to the last quarter.
Toby Jordan, Aberdeen's 6-foot-7 senior center, had another down-and-up showing, getting one basket in the first half, then muscling his way to eight points in the third quarter comeback and his side's first seven of the last segment. His latter work provided the Eagles with a 54-47 lead and the gap got as close as five only once the rest of the way.
That was at 61-56 on another John Bowman three-pointer, the last of his five, with two minutes to play. The remaining time saw the home team make seven of eight free throws and close with baskets by Freddie Cole and Jimmy Greene.
"Defense turned the game around," Aberdeen coach Ron Petrey said. "When we play defense, we can play with anybody, but when we allow teams to run their offense, it's a different game."
Aberdeen, missing point guard Maurice Guy who is sidelined with an arm injury, alternated Greene and Lamont Kerney at the position, although using them as the guards for much of the night.
Petrey got a solid effort from both, along with Hosea Edwards, who has the only bulk on the team. He uses that well inside and plays a steady, workmanlike game without attracting a lot of attention.
Pointing to the see-saw action that was keyed to turnovers, Petrey said, "Sometimes we have to sacrifice playing under control to play a quickgame, and then we live with the turnovers and try to minimize the mistakes."
Both teams will begin regional play Tuesday night, but where Aberdeen will be trying to retain its scoring balance -- Jordan, 21; Greene, 19, Cole, 18 -- and defensive intensity, Wright will be looking for better shooting, particularly inside, and better transition play.
"We didn't handle their pressure very well, but I thought that was only one part of our problem," said Wright coach George Constantine.
"After John hit those two threes to start the third quarter, we started looking for the perimeter shots. I don't think we looked inside that whole quarter."