Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hoops Notebook

More Balance for Saxons Click

The Langley boys have managed their best start in more than 20 years, despite less production from the Northern Region's scoring leader from last season, 6-foot-3 guard Ryan Davenport.

In its start, Langley (8-1) has relied on a revived supporting cast that has three players besides Davenport in double figures. And that has allowed the region's top returning threat to "play a lot more relaxed," Langley Coach Travis Hess said.

Last season, Davenport scored 584 of Langley's 1,494 points (39 percent) and led the Northern Region in scoring with 22.4 points per game. But for the most part, Langley struggled and finished 13-13.

"Last year, I had to work a lot harder to get points," said Davenport, who scored a region-high 40 points in a 69-67 double overtime loss to Woodson last January. "I had to work away from the ball, come back to the ball and make a play. To score a lot of points, I had to force some shots last year."

In the new balanced approach, 6-foot-5 senior forward Ahmed Malik, junior Derek Baker -- a transfer from O'Connell -- and junior guard Thomas Kody all are scoring in double figures, and Davenport has led Langley in scoring in just four games.

"I think our focus has been to balance things out offensively," Davenport said.

That balance was on display as Langley went 4-0 in winning the Governor's division at the Torrey Pines Holiday Tournament in San Diego, where Davenport broke the 1,000-point career scoring mark, but Baker was named the tournament's most valuable player.

"I feel like there is a lot less pressure individually," said Davenport, who is averaging 18 points per game. "[This year], in the last couple of minutes in the game, if I have to take over, I'm ready to do that, but I don't have to do that the whole game."

Malik scored 23 points in the Saxons' season-opening 58-45 win over Robinson, which marked the first time that Davenport did not lead Langley in scoring since a 63-47 win over McLean on Dec. 22, 2006.

In a 50-48 loss to McLean on Dec. 21, Davenport had a game-high 21 points, which then dropped Langley to 1-1 in games that he led the team in scoring. That loss further cemented the senior's theory that less from him will mean more for Langley this season.

"He's still our guy in the fourth quarter when things get tight," Hess said.

Learning from Tough Start

Robinson's boys started the season 0-5 against teams with a combined 29-16 record.

The Rams have since drawn on the experience gained from such a tough schedule to win two of their past four games, including a 62-57 victory over South County in last week's Bulldog Bash tournament.

That victory provided a salve for an early-season loss to the Stallions, which was the fourth of those five season-opening losses.

A 75-60 victory over Oakton on Dec. 21 gave Robinson a 1-0 start in district play.

"Not only did we have these games, but our first three were on the road," Robinson Coach Matt McKeag said. "While we didn't do well, in terms of wins and losses in those tough out-of-conference tests, that's all they were, is tests. Our team goals are all set for February and, to win in February, we have to win in the district."

--B.J. Koubaroulis, Special to The Washington Post

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