Yesterday, as his team's 20-point second-half lead over visiting Bowie evaporated, Crossland Coach Earl Hawkins kept urging his players to be patient. The fifth-ranked Cavaliers, who have gone to the Class AA state championship the past two seasons, had to settle down and finish the game on a high, Hawkins told them.
Eventually, Crossland won impressively, 79-66, with 6-foot-8 forward Walter Williams (27 points, four blocks, four dunks) and 6-3 forward Bernard Hunt (29 points) hooking up on sleek passes for uncontested layups.
"It felt good out there," said Williams. "But towards the end we didn't play with as much intensity as we did in the beginning. We came out pretty confident. This team is pretty much like last year's team; we still can run."
All afternoon Crossland (3-0) had raced up the court, either feeding Williams for alley-oop dunks and easy top-of-the-key jumpers, or passing crisply around the perimeter to find the open man.
Williams excelled at the start of the game, scoring 12 points in the first quarter, blocking two shots and rattling the gymnasium with two vicious dunks. Bowie sunk fast and trailed, 22-7, at the end of the first period.
After the Cavaliers expanded their lead to 41-21 at intermission, the second half should have been a formality. Under heavy pressure, Bowie either turned the ball over or missed short jumpers, which often led to fastbreak baskets by Hunt.
But the Bulldogs (1-2), behind a barrage of three-pointers by Jay Franklin (21 points, four three-pointers) and the second-half resurgence of 6-7 center Eric Payne (17 points total, 14 in the second half), stayed in the game and cut the lead to 58-44 after three periods.
After Payne converted two free throws to open the fourth period, the lead was only 58-46. On the other end of the court, Williams threw a swift pass to Hunt for a lay-up to push the margin to 60-46, but with Franklin finding the basket from three-point range, Hawkins knew his team had to pick up its intensity to avoid a late Bulldogs surge.
"I just wanted us to execute a little better," said Hawkins. "I think when you try to go from 20 to 30 up, you have to execute and we didn't do a good job of that defensively or offensively. Consequently, we almost let them back into the ball game."
The Bulldogs did outscore Crossland, 38-36, in the second half, but it was the beginning of the game, where Bowie had struggled in its first two games this season, that made the difference.