Photo by Colin MurphyScott Huntley scored this layup off a steal in the third quarter of Severna Park's game with Meade on January 31.
Back To Basics: Falcon Boys Are Playing Hard, Having Fun
On its surface, the Severna Park boys basketball team’s 64-48 loss to Meade on January 31 seems like the expected, unremarkable result of the 3-15 Falcons visiting the home floor of the two-time reigning 4A state finalists and 2015 state champion Mustangs.
Witnesses to the game, however, saw a Falcon team unburdened by the struggles of a season ago playing a disciplined brand of basketball focused on defense, ball movement, communication and effort, and having fun doing it. Severna Park frustrated the host Mustangs throughout the game, causing turnovers, fighting for rebounds, grinding out buckets and whittling a 16-point halftime deficit to just seven with under four minutes to play.
The Mustangs were able to wrest the game away late, but 15 points by Jordan Hallett, 11 by Scott Huntley and 10 by Chase Harding highlighted a balanced scoring night for the Falcons, who drew praise from coach Paul Pellicani for their effort.
“They’re buying in, they’re playing for each other, and we’ve gotten significantly better defensively,” said Pellicani. “We had [Meade] frustrated in the things we intentionally tried to do tonight, and we did it successfully. The fact that they’re playing hard is great. You can only do so much about other factors we have very little control over, but playing hard is something you can control.”
So yes, the game went into the loss column officially, but playing hard and noticeably having fun doing it has returned normalcy to a program that has experienced drastic swings in success in recent years, ranging from a 23-3 season and a county championship in 2013-2014 to a winless season a year ago.
While last season was undoubtedly frustrating, this year’s returns have been steady, and the team has achieved a goal every team seeks regardless of expectations or win totals: improvement.
“Since Christmas, we’ve gotten better every week. For awhile early in the season, and I think a lot of it was self-imposed pressure because of some history, which I get, we would take a step forward and maybe two steps back,” said Pellicani. “But since the new year, we’ve been getting better every week. Even just reading the body language on the bench, it tells volumes.”
The team put an end to its losing streak on December 12, getting a 43-39 victory over Chopticon behind a game-high 14 points by Harding and chalking up one last victory in the old gymnasium. It was the program’s first victory since the 2014-15 season, which according to Huntley allowed everyone to exhale.
“Once we got the first one off our chest, it really calmed things down and let us kind of relax instead of playing stressed out and being like, ‘Oh we need to get one win,’ so that was really important,” he said.
The team picked up another victory on a Friday night in Edgewater on January 6 by defeating South River, then christened the new gymnasium in style with a 40-37 win over rival Broadneck on January 17. Huntley led the team with 11 points, while Harding (9 points, 3 assists), Jordan Hallet (6 points), David Fischer (6 points) and Jake Hallet (7 rebounds) all had significant contributions as the Falcons recorded an assist on all 13 of their field goals against the Bruins.
Said Huntley, who is a three-sport athlete in soccer, basketball and baseball, “I’ve beaten Broadneck in the other two sports I play, and this was the best feeling.”
Pellicani said the team’s execution was excellent against the Bruins, who the Falcons will face again in the final game of the season on February 17.
“We had a game plan,” said Pellicani. “[Broadneck’s Jaylen] Jasper is averaging [big numbers], and he had 4 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks, far off his number on anything. That was part of this march we’ve had. We had a plan, the kids executed, and good things happen.”
Along with the regular contributions of multi-sport athletes Cullen Joyce (lacrosse), Kody Milton (baseball) and Jacob Umile-Butz (football), the Falcons have climbed from last season’s doldrums to present opponents with a legitimate challenge this year. Joyce led the team with 15 points, and Harding added 11, when the team picked up win no. 4 on the year with a 44-35 victory over South River in the new gym’s first Friday-night boys basketball game on February 3.
Prompted with a question about being a tough out come playoff time, Pellicani was quick to point out that the Falcons have recent experience haunting the playoff dreams of teams with state tournament aspirations. In 2015, the Falcons brushed off two regular-season losses to Arundel to bounce the Wildcats out of the playoffs. In 2013 the Falcons were also playoff road warriors, knocking out both Arundel and Meade on their home courts.
Huntley says the team’s record disguises its growth. The Falcons’ confidence isn’t wavering, and playoff opponents would be wise to beware.
“We can upset someone,” he said. “Knowing that teams underestimate us is an advantage, in my opinion. It gives us more drive to ruin their season and wreck their playoff run.”