Hammond Boys Basketball Enjoying Breakout Season

Under second year head coach Mike Salapata, the Hammond boys basketball program is enjoying its best season in recent memory.

When Salapata took over, he was inheriting a program which had finished bottom of the county two seasons in a row. His first season in charge was much of what the previous two seasons had been. The team struggled and finished the season 3-20.

"Last season was a set the foundation year for us. With me not getting the job until one month before the season started, it put us behind from the start," Salapata said. "The state of the program was honestly of little concern to me when I took over. I was solely focused on implementing our system and style in. My AD and the administration here at Hammond are second to none and have supported me in building the program how I wanted to."

Salapata is repaying his administration's faith in him by transforming the Golden Bears into one of Howard County's best this season. Hammond is 14-3 with a 12-2 record in league play.

Last night, Hammond pulled off one of their signature wins of the season by beating Oakland Mills 68-66 on a buzzer beater. It was Oakland Mills' first loss in Howard County play.

It was Hammond's first game since their most lopsided defeat of the season, which came this past Saturday against Dunbar.

"The loss to Dunbar actually probably did us some good. For the first time all year, the kids were embarrassed. It definitely provided a wake up call to them. They came back to practice and worked hard, absorbed the game plan and were ready to go," Salapata said. "The good thing about playing Oakland Mills is that there was no motivation needed. Everyone was ready to go so they were actually the perfect opponent following Dunbar."

Hammond likes to play an uptempo style and force their opponents into high scoring contests. The offense has been led by Brandon Willis, who is averaging 22 points per game which is the most in all of Howard County. Jarvis Doles has also made a big impact, averaging a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Terrell Lamar and Matt Johnson are also averaging double digit points per game, giving Hammond four different scorers who have been able to consistently hurt their opponents.

Defensively, the team has been bolstered by TJ White and Johnson Aja who have provided some steel to Hammond's interior defense, while Ryan Ridgell has been a key cog on both ends of the floor. Put it all together and Hammond has one of the deepest teams in the area.

"We've had our fair share of ups and downs but through it all, we've continued to grow and in my eyes, we have steadily made progress," Salapata said.

Looking ahead, Hammond is hoping to build off its strong regular season performance with a good showing in the postseason. The team still has five regular season contests before getting there, but if the team keeps playing well, there's no reason Hammond won't find itself making a trip to College Park in March.

"Our goals have not changed. They are to win our region, make it down to College Park and then let's see what happens from there," Salapata said. "I'm loving coaching this team and looking forward to finishing out this season strong."
February 11th, 2016By: Wick Eisenberg

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