When asked about his season on Broadneck's junior varsity last year, Mike Atkins still throws his head back in disappointment. It wasn't that he played poorly -- he averaged 20 points per game -- but he had hoped to play on the varsity team as a sophomore.
Coach John Williams kept Atkins off the varsity roster so he could develop confidence and learn how to be a scorer. It turns out it was time well spent.
Those qualities surfaced last night, as Atkins scored a team-high 23 points and led No. 13 Broadneck to a thrilling 61-60 victory over Annapolis in the Anne Arundel County championship game at Meade.
"It helped my leadership because I had to lead the younger guys," Atkins said. "That's incorporated into now with the varsity. I had to get everybody in line."
Atkins played all 32 minutes and was a steadying presence on the floor. He made sure the Bruins (21-2) maintained their lead in the final minutes and held on to win their first county title since 1997.
"He has really come along," Williams said. "He's probably our most improved player."
After Charles James made two free throws to increase Broadneck's lead to 61-58, Annapolis (18-4) inbounded the ball in the front court with 11 seconds to play. When the Bruins denied Panthers senior guard Lateef Williams an open three-point attempt, he drove to the basket for a layup that made the score 61-60.
The Bruins wisely took their time inbounding the ball and time expired.
"I didn't advocate" Williams's drive, Panthers Coach John Brady said. "That's just one of those things."
Atkins made five three-pointers and scored eight points in the third quarter to help Broadneck erase a seven-point halftime deficit. He began the season playing less than eight minutes per game but has earned more playing time and a spot in the starting lineup.
"In the second half, I just told myself I was going to do better and better every quarter," Atkins said. "I just stayed with a positive attitude and started hitting."
In the girls' championship, No. 7 Arundel won its fifth straight crown by pulling away from No. 16 Old Mill in the second half for a 66-52 win.
Arundel (19-4) was without forward Simone Egwu, its second leading scorer who is on crutches with an injured left ankle, but it still controlled the paint with three six-footers. Freshman Sheronne Vails had 13 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Old Mill fell to 19-4.
Broadneck Boys 61,
Arundel Girls 66,
Old Mill 52
Missing Scorer:Broadneck won without Clyde Gross, one of its top scorers who was recently dismissed from the team for undisclosed team violations, Coach John Williams said.
Missing Coach:Arundel Coach Lee Rogers was not on the sideline because he is out of town with his ill father. "We really wanted to do it for Rog," Arundel senior Brittany Watts said.