Northern gets full exposure as undefeated

March 11, 2007|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

An undefeated season can be appreciated because it is uncommon, usually unique and often goes unmatched.

But Saturday at the Washington County Boys Middle School Basketball Championships, Northern Middle School made perfection seem ordinary.

Northern Middle became the league's first school to field undefeated teams in each division - sixth, seventh and eighth grade - before capping the season with tournament championship victories at Broadfording Christian Academy.

"It's very satisfying, especially to have all three grade levels go undefeated in the same year," said sixth-grade coach Bill Proctor. "These kids play well, top to bottom."

Northern Middle's sixth-grade team opened the day by topping Smithsburg, 35-18. The seventh-grade squad followed with a 38-37 thriller, also over Smithsburg, and the eighth-graders made it a championship trifecta by beating Hancock, 50-38.


The most suspenseful finish of the day was in the seventh-grade game.

Northern led 22 of the first 23 minutes until Brock Neiston hit a basket in the lane to put Smithsburg ahead 35-33 with 1:15 remaining.

Northern's Ahmad Fields answered 10 seconds later by hitting his third 3-pointer for a 36-35 advantage and a pair of Alijah Benson free throws moments later upped the lead to 38-35.

"In clutch situations we have three guys we want with the ball," said Northern co-coach Denzel Jessie. "We have Ahmad, Alijah and Trey (Jessie). We have a lot of confidence in those three guys when it matters most."

Joseph Mendy's putback pulled Smithsburg to within 38-37 with 40 seconds left, but Northern ran more than 35 seconds off the clock before Smithsburg got its next possession.

After two timeouts, Smithsburg still had its inbounds pass intercepted by Fields at midcourt.

"We knew Smithsburg wasn't out of it," Jessie said. "Our boys kept their composure and that's what helped us in the end."

Fields finished with 14 points and seven rebounds for Northern, which led by as many as nine points in the first half. Benson and Kris Burdick each added eight points and Trey Jessie had six points and three steals.

Mendy led Smithsburg with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Robby Hogue had seven points and three steals and Neiston hauled in 10 rebounds.

n The sixth-grade championship was decided much sooner.

Northern went on a 12-0 run, spanning five minutes in the second and third quarters, to take a 21-7 lead. Smithsburg never got closer than seven points in the second half.

Smithsburg turned the ball over eight times against Northern's full-court pressure as the deficit grew to double-digits. After Smithsburg closed the gap to 25-18 early in the fourth quarter, Northern returned to its press and closed the game on a 10-0 run.

"Our first eight players are very quick," Proctor said. "We can press a lot of teams effectively on defense and run with the ball on offense."

Northern held a 16-2 scoring advantage on fast-breaks, while forcing 16 turnovers. Smithsburg had trouble getting shots to fall, hitting just 6 of 44 field goals and 5 of 20 foul shots.

Kevin Proctor and Andrew Yacyk each finished with seven points to lead Northern. Yacyk also had seven rebounds.

Austin Ryan led Smithsburg with five points and three steals.

n In the final championship matchup, Northern ran the floor early and used its overwhelming depth to outlast an undermanned Hancock team.

Hancock rode the size and strength of Spencer Heller to trade blows with Northern in the first half. Heller's last basket and 14th point of the half pulled Hancock to within 24-23.

Fatigue started to set in on Hancock midway through the third quarter as it went 2-for-11 from the field, allowing Northern to take a 35-29 lead. Hancock played just six players.

Meanwhile, Northern played 10 players - eight scored - and clearly had the fresher legs down the stretch.

"We're so deep, our strategy is to run and run and they eventually get tired," Northern coach John Psillas said. "We can run all game long and it can be difficult for other teams to keep up."

Northern scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to take a 41-29 lead. It maintained a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game.

Devonte Morel led Northern with 12 points and 12 rebounds and Martez Townes had nine and seven. Max Psillas had five assists.

Heller finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds and Logan Ray scored 10.

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