The Post Game Show

Monday, January 30, 2006

Another moment in time

I've discussed my favorite college basketball team (well, would I have any other? Duh, Chris...), but my favorite basketball team on any level was my senior year of high school, the 1998-99 Howard High Wildcats, the best single-season team NOT to win a state championship. No one can say otherwise. That season was one full of drama, peaks and valleys, and a stirring first round upset, but came to an end just a week later by a determined St. Elizabeth's squad, aided by officiating.

That Wildcats team had probably the most talent any Delaware High School team has had in the past 20 years. The star of stars on that team was former DSU Hornet sixth-man Carlos Hawkins, who was something like a phenomenon when he transferred from Tatnall in the fall of '98. At 6'5, he was big enough to play center, but had the handle and jumpshot to play two guard and occaisionally some point.

His cousin, Jareem Dowling (nicknamed "Black" for obvious reasons) patroled the paint, but had an affinity for taking three pointers, which drove coach Paul Brown nuts. The starting center was Harold Linsday, a senior who was coming of age finally after two lean years as the starter in the middle.

And the backcourt? Scary good. Terrance "Mid-Air" Wallace could leap out of the gym, but had an equally amazing talent for shooting and dunking with either his left or right hand...effortlessly and accurately. Aaron Bridgeforth never really got his due as a point guard, but nobody ran the offense better and made timely steals better than he did.

That bench had some strength to it as well. Richard Hamlin would come off the bench and spell Bridgeforth with big shots in the clutch, Devon Jackson and Bilal Salaam provided help up front, and Marquis Lopez was probably the most talented player on that team. We called him "Felipe" like the St. John's player. It's a shame how good he could've been, but never got to be. Maybe that'll be another entry.

That Howard team started off 10-0 and was upset by McKean thanks to a halfcourt bankshot by some Spud Webb-lookin' kid who's name I forget, but that was the least of Howard's troubles. A benchwarmer's father started complaining about his son's lack of playing time (put it like this, he was the only drip of cream in the coffee) and prompted an investigation about the eligibility of 'Los and Black since they were from the Virgin Islands. The state made us forfeit those wins and we lost those two for five games.

That should've been the end of the season, but it wasn't. Lopez and Salaam moved into the starting lineup and Wallace went on a shooting tear, which should've made him first team all state if you ask me. The first game after that drama was at Hodgson, and then-assistant coach Darrin Kellam told Felipe "you know what you gotta do, so go out there and do it."

Boy did he. The first couple of possessions, he blocked a shot, nailed a three, stole a pass and did the old Karl Malone "hand behind the head" dunk, and they were off and running from there. Unfortunately, Lopez and Harold Lindsay would become academically ineligible, and Lopez would transfer to McKean for his senior season. Howard snuck into the tournament as a 23rd seed in a field of 24, and had a to play a very talented A.I. Dupont squad.

The Tigers just completely dominated the first 30 minutes of that game, were ahead by 11 with about 90 seconds to go, and that should've been the end of that. It wasn't. It started innocently enough with a Hawkins jumper, then A.I. started panicking, and the lead had shriveled to one with 10 seconds left. Off a perfectly designed inbounds play, Rick Hamlin dribbled to the foul line and knocked down a jumper to give Howard the lead. Hawkins would steal the inbounds pass and slam it home and Howard had rallied for one of the more memorable first-round wins ever.

Unfortunately, that next Saturday, St. E's had the size and the ref's on their side, and that was the end of the '99 Wildcats. A team with all that talent who faced drama head on, but simply ran out of steam at the end. As the cameraman for the team and still doing the school TV show thing, it was a fun time in a bad senior year that I'll never forget. And I still say to this day to anybody I run into my age from a different high school "YOU SHOULD'VE BEEN A WILDCAT!" Really. You should've have been.


  • At 5:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dear Mr. Stevens,

    I found your article to be so right on. Man was that an exciting team to watch. I have never seen so much talent on one team. Carlos Hawkins who at that level could play and dominate at any position. Terrance Wallace was also very talented a player who could both score and defend with the best of them. But for my money Marquise Lopez was by far better than either of them. Had he played in that St. E's game they would not of had a shot. But again I don't know, because the officiating in that game was so poor I have never seen anything like it in all of my 47 years of watching basketball on every level. Oh yeah, and by far the most under-valued point guard of his time Aaron Bridgeforth. I loved watching him play because he was so steady and unselfish with the ball. I would take that kid on my team any day over any of them simply, because of his desire, defense, and shooting ability. It was clear to me that Brown held him back. Great article Chris!

  • At 5:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great Job!

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