The Aberdeen boys basketball team kept its Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference winning streak alive last week. But it wasn't easy, as the Eagles needed two late free throws from Leandre Richardson for a 47-46 victory over Bel Air on Friday, stretching their two-year UCBAC run to 26 games.
The Eagles improved to 9-0 in the conference this season. They won all 12 UCBAC games last season and the championship. Despite losing several strong players from that team, Aberdeen kept winning in the conference and needs one win to lock up the Chesapeake Division regular-season crown.
Richardson, who struggled with free throws earlier in the season, made both ends of a one-and-one with 19 seconds left for the decisive points against Bel Air.
"It was a little too close for me," said Aberdeen coach Richard Hart. "But Bel Air played very well. They had a very smart game plan."
Richardson finished with a game-high 24 points and ranks second on the team with an average of 17.1 points. The senior, a first-team All-County pick last year, ranks just behind sophomore Devon Branch (17.7) in scoring for the team.
"We're very proud of [the winning streak]," Hart said. "Who knows how long it can continue, but it's something we're proud of."
The Eagles are 10-8 overall, with all of the losses coming in a difficult early-season schedule that included teams such as Walbrook, Bishop O'Connell and nationally ranked Montrose Christian.
"We were losing games, but we weren't losing sight of what we wanted, which was to get ready for the conference championship game and the state playoffs," Hart said.
Aberdeen, which lost to Potomac in last year's Class 2A state finals, moved up to 3A this season. How far they get this postseason might hinge on Branch's eligibility.
Branch is appealing an academic situation and was scheduled to miss last night's game.
Better than expected
Fallston coach Vern Brown wasn't sure what to expect from his girls basketball team heading into this season.
The Cougars lost All-County Player of the Year Amanda Andrews and two other key starters to graduation after winning the UCBAC title last year. Brown also took over as sole coach and had a group of younger players to work with after co-coach Alice Puckett stepped down.
Fallston, however, has played well, going 11-7 through the end of last week, including a 7-2 record that put the Cougars in first place in the Chesapeake Division.
The Cougars have benefited from the way four younger players have become big parts of the lineup. Junior Kristen Steiner became a strong inside force, scoring 19 points in last Thursday's 57-43 win over North Harford.
Freshman Jess Steiner, Kristen's sister, has grown into an effective point guard, while junior transfer Lexy Fitzkee also has been a contributor. In addition, sophomore Lindsay Howard moved up from the junior varsity to provide a spark.
"The new players have stepped up," Brown said. "We just had to forge an identity, and it all started with defense."
The defense shut down a tough North Harford offense. Brown put different players on top Hawks scoring threat Corey Donohoe throughout the game and held her to 18 points. The Cougars also forced 24 turnovers in that game.
Strong defense and the improved play from the starters helped Fallston overcome a 2-4 start. The Cougars now have a shot at repeating as the UCBAC champions.
Pettiway closing in
Joppatowne guard Jeff Pettiway is on the verge of a milestone.
The junior was 28 points away from 1,000 career points heading into last night's game with C. Milton Wright. He played a big role in helping the Mariners make it to the Class 1A final four last year and is faring even better this season.
Pettiway, who averaged 16.4 points last season, is scoring 18.6 a game this season.
"I expect a lot from him, and he's doing the things I expected to a high degree," said Joppatowne coach Al Johnson. "He scores when we need him to score."
Pettiway has carried much of the burden for the Joppatowne offense this season. David Dudley (10.4) is the only other player averaging at least 10 points for the Mariners, who entered the week with a 12-6 record.
The Edgewood boys basketball team finally returned home last week.
The Rams had played nine of their previous 10 games on the road before coming home last week for the first two of a season-ending six consecutive home contests.
Playing on the road didn't bother the Rams, who won all nine of their road games as part of a 10-game winning streak that kept them in first place in the UCBAC's Susquehanna Division.
This streak pushed Edgewood to 12-4 overall and 8-0 in the division. Top scorer Jordan Hancock returned Friday after missing some games with mononucleosis.
The Rams have their biggest in-season test on Friday, when they host Aberdeen for what could be a preview of the UCBAC championship game later this month.