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Severna Park boys grow into contenders; Howard girls start strong

Severna Park senior guard Taylor Kitzmiller said the offseason was about getting bigger and stronger. It was about honing skills and building chemistry among the team’s eight seniors. But above all else, it was about learning how to win together.

Over the summer, Kitzmiller and seven of his classmates joined an AAU team called the Benfield Ballers and competed in a number of local tournaments. They won three of them, then traveled to Boston for the Under Armour Zero Gravity Nationals tournament, where they were the runners-up in their division.

Kitzmiller said the seniors returned home with a stronger chemistry and newfound confidence.

“In past years at Severna Park, we hadn’t really been accustomed to winning,” he said. “Winning in the offseason, winning those three or four tournaments, it really gave us the winning mindset and taught us how to win games down the stretch.”

That confidence has already paid dividends in Anne Arundel County, where those seniors have led the Falcons to three straight victories at the beginning of the season, including a 50-48 nail-biter on the road against Annapolis (2-2) on Friday night.

Severna Park Coach Paul Pellicani chalked some of his team’s development up to confidence. But he also said the team’s size — from 6-foot-7 center Chris Lee to a few 6-foot-3 guards like Kitzmiller — has helped the Falcons (3-0) rebound and attack the rim with relative ease.

“The guys are just a year bigger, a year stronger, a year more mature physically as well as emotionally,” Pellicani said. “When you look at them, they look like a bunch of big strong kids.”

Kitzmiller said that the Falcons were often bullied inside and pushed to the perimeter last season, when they finished 8-16. But after power-lifting at least two or three times each week over the summer, they now usually have a size advantage at every position on the floor.

“We’re using our size, but mostly it’s been the offseason work so far,” forward Jake Tinordi said. “Over the past couple years, we’ve kind of just been slowly getting better. Now it’s finally starting to show.”

Howard girls get over the hump

Four of Howard’s last five losses spanning the past two seasons have come at the hands of River Hill (1-3), one of the perennial powers in Howard County. But with a 45-35 victory on Dec. 6, the Lions didn’t just beat the Hawks — they picked up their first win in River Hill’s gym in more than a decade.

“We beat them a few years ago at Howard, but we hadn’t beaten them there,” Howard Coach Scott Robinson said. “I think it meant a lot to the girls to win over there. They played a great defensive game.”

The win sparked a run of early-season dominance for the Lions (4-0), who have won each of their first four games by an average of 23 points to take the top spot in the county standings. They will face two tough opponents in Reservoir (2-1) and Glenelg (3-0) before the holiday break.

“We’re playing a lot of really good teams early,” Robinson said. “If we can get past these two, it’d be enormous.”

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