Harlem High School boys basketball coach Kim Chambers says his squad isn't better than the Greenbrier Wolfpack. He also gives the Lakeside Panthers an edge over his Bulldogs.
Those are his honest beliefs, but Chambers honestly can't believe what was written about the Bulldogs before the season even started.
"I take offense to the articles I've seen in the paper," he says.
Chambers was miffed that not a single Harlem player rated a pick in Ashley Brown's first- or second-team All-Columbia County High School Basketball preseason selections, which appeared in the Nov. 23 Columbia County News-Times. Then The Augusta Chronicle's high school preview panned Harlem, saying the team would be doing well to win 10 games this season.
"We're not getting any respect," said Chambers, who used the printed criticism as fodder for the Bulldogs.
Chambers challenged his players to prove the scribes wrong, and so far, the mad Dogs have been on the attack.
Harlem lost at Lakeside in the season opener Nov. 24, then rebounded to beat Evans and Washington County in successive games.
"I'm very impressed with the way we've been playing right now as a team," Chambers said after Harlem won its Region 3-AAA opener at home Tuesday against Washington County. "It's fun to watch them learn, and grow and gain confidence."
Really, the two wins weren't that much fun for Chambers.
Harlem beat Evans 51-50, as Jon Rickerson passed to Chris Bowman, who connected at the buzzer.
That stressful win was followed by another nail-biter Tuesday, when Harlem posted a 64-61 overtime win against Washington County. The Dogs prevailed thanks to five players scoring in double figures - Tim Camp and William Hawkins each had 12 points, Patrick Mott and Rickerson both scored 11, and Sonjay Boyd chipped in 10.
The strong start has come despite a squad at less than full strength. "We've only got eight players, and all eight are contributing," Chambers said.
Senior Foster Moore is still recovering from a knee injury, and a couple of other Dogs are working out eligibility issues and are expected to play after Christmas.
A more pressing problem, though, is competing in Region 3-AAA. Whipping Washington County deserves an asterisk, because the Golden Hawks were without a number of starters who were still with the football squad.
Throw tough region foes Josey and Laney into the mix, and it's clear that Harlem has not yet begun to fight.
Still, after seeing his squad written off before the opening tipoff, Chambers was happy his team has come out swinging this season.
"We've got to continue to improve, but it's nice to get off to a good start and realize we do have a good team," he said. "We're going to win 10 games."
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