North Point boys’ basketball team has defense on its mind


“These guys are unselfish and they know that if you see somebody ahead, pass the ball up and you’ll be the beneficiary of the next one,” North Point Coach Jimmy Ball said. Above, North Point's Naim Muhammad, battles for a rebound with Sidwell's Josh Hill. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
January 28, 2013

North Point has been the highest-scoring team in the area for three straight seasons, but Coach Jimmy Ball says his team’s focus is rarely on offense.

The sixth-ranked Eagles (14-1, 5-0 SMAC) are averaging 94.0 points per game so far, but their prolific output is more a product of their stifling full-court pressure defense, which leads to fast breaks and quick points.

“It’s not like we’re going down and running through set plays,” Ball said. “We’re just playing aggressive. We’re doing all the things that we need to do defensively and points come off of our pressure.”

Never has the North Point press been more effective than it was last week, when the Eagles scored a school-record 116 points Wednesday in a 116-63 win over Great Mills. That win marked the third straight game North Point topped 100 points, the fourth time in five games and the sixth time this season.

North Point had only two 100-point games in its first five seasons of varsity play, and the Eagles’ area-leading scoring average has climbed from 77.3 points per game in 2010-11 when they won the Maryland 4A championship, to 80.2 last season and now 94.0.

Host B.J. Koubaroulis runs through the top plays from high school basketball games in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC/The Washington Post)

“We have eight seniors on our team so we have guys who have been playing together and doing this for a while,” Ball said. “We’re doing something different than a lot of teams do and it’s hard to prepare for.”

Senior guard Marquis Wright (17.8 ppg) and senior forwards Matt Bonds (17.3) and Naim Muhammad (15.0) have led the Eagles so far, but five players scored in double figures against Great Mills, and no player has led North Point in scoring in more than two consecutive games all season.

North Point averages more than 25 assists per game, and the passing in transition is the key to the Eagles’ system.

“These guys are unselfish and they know that if you see somebody ahead, pass the ball up and you’ll be the beneficiary of the next one,” Ball said. “They’ve bought into that.”

The Eagles have been held under 80 points just once all season, and that disappointing 60-57 loss to DeMatha on Dec. 15 may have been the most influential in their push for a third straight state tournament appearance and second state title in three years.

Ball said his team looked like it had stage fright early in front of a big crowd at Wise that night, and the loss made his players realize they weren’t infallible.

Eleven straight wins and a 95.1 point-per-game scoring average have followed, but, remember, it’s not about the offense.

“We know if you want to win a state championship, it has to be on defense,” Ball said. “We don’t set a number for our guys to hit on the offensive end. It just happens.”

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