Over the years, there were always two things that could elicit chuckles from the folks in Harlem - the Oliver Hardy Festival and the annual futilities of the Harlem High School boys' basketball team.
But this season, it's the Bulldogs' opponents who have gotten themselves into a fine mess.
With a home-win last week over Academy of Richmond County, the Bulldogs improved to 7-0 in Region 3-AAA and seized a three-game lead in the region standings.
The 75-64 triumph Tuesday against the Musketeers gave Harlem an overall record of 10-5, while the seven region wins eclipsed the team's victory total from the last three seasons combined.
"We're not whipping anybody. They've all been close games, but I'm presently surprised that we've been able to reach down within ourselves and pull them out," said Kim Chambers, the second-year coach who has guided the Harlem turnaround.
"Were' hustling, boxing out, doing the little things teams need to do."
Harlem has not earned a trip to the state playoffs in basketball since the early 1970s, and the last time the Bulldogs won a region title on the hardwood was 1969.
Now, with an ample supply of sharpshooters, along with a defensive mind-set and new-found confidence, Harlem has all but sewn up a Class AAA playoff berth. The top two teams in the final regular-season standings in Region 3-AAA automatically advance to state.
Two wins in the last five region games would be enough to punch the playoff ticket.
Two wins was all Harlem managed in the two seasons before Chambers arrived.
But no one's laughing at the Dogs now.
"After we played Washington County, their coach, Al Gray, said he's never seen that look in the eyes of Harlem basketball players that he'e seen in these kid's eyes, and how confident they are," Chambers said. "These kids are dedicated. When they leave this program, they're going to be men."
With great play in the Region 3-AAA tournament next month, the Dogs also could leave as Harlem's first hoop champions in over 30 years.
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