The Northern Bedford High School boys basketball team won 11 games all of last year, but the veteran nucleus the Black Panthers returned already have them at 10 wins this season.
With his team about to embark on a very challenging last third of its regular season, Black Panther coach Barry Crawford recently talked to the Mirror's Philip Cmor.
Q: How do you feel about how the season's gone so far? Are you where you thought you'd be?
A: Yes, I think we like where we're at. We would have liked maybe to have won one of the two games at home that we lost, but, I think, other than that, we've defeated certain pretty solid teams. I think we're pretty much right where we thought we'd be.
Q: You came into the season with some pretty good size and pretty good leapers. What was going to be the challenge to this team?
A: I think the biggest thing as a group was to take care of the ball. We've made some improvements in that area, but we still can make improvement. It shows up against some of the better teams we play.
The Crawford file
Name: Barry Crawford
Position: Northern Bedford boys basketball coach and Bedford County finance director
Career record: 176-165, 13 years
High school: Northern Bedford (1980)
College: Penn State (1984)
Family: Wife-Teresa (married 26 years); children-Andrea, 23, and Taylor, 20.
Q: That's one of the tougher things to teach. How have you gone about trying to address that issue?
A: We do some things in practice where we put them in some tougher situations: two-on-one ball-handling type things and trap situations, where they have to make some quick decisions under adverse conditions. And we've done some offseason work to get better at it, fundamentally. But game experience really is the only way to get better.
Q: It seems there is so much parity in this league (the ICC South and the Sideling Hill League) year-in and year-out. You're in the mix with three or four other teams for the top spots. What is it like matching wits with some of these other coaches?
A: That's one of the things that I've focused on the last couple of years. The coaching in this league is just so solid. There used to be one or two coaches you used to think you could just outcoach, but I don't think anymore that that's the case. They are going to be prepared ever game. People ask, "Well, why don't you do this?" Because Coach is good enough to know that that's what you do well and to take it away from you. They'll take away your strength. Guys like Kent Hendershot at Southern Fulton and Dave Bailey at Tussey Mountain have been around five, 10, 15 ... Bailey's been around for 30 years. They know what they're doing.
Q: You have a shot to play in the ICC championship game. But, when you talk to some of the coaches around the league, they still think they are just in the Sideling Hill League. Is there a resistance from some of these teams to see themselves as being in the Inter-County Conference, too?
A: Well, the Fulton County schools don't have the all-sports connection that some of the Bedford County schools have. The Bedford County schools have adopted more of the ICC mentality now, but they play football, wrestle. They have rivalries from that. They play basketball and baseball but not much other than that, and they aren't so close to some of those other schools, so they haven't been able to develop those rivalries with Juniata Valley, Bellwood, Williamsburg. And the Sideling Hill League's been around a long time. There's a lot of tradition there.
Q: Southern Huntingdon is joining the ICC South in the future, right?
A: I think that will help change that [Sideling Hill League] mentality.
Q: You've got some big games coming up. You've got a trip to Juniata Valley coming up this week, then you've got Tussey coming into your place, then you've got a game at Chestnut Ridge. How do you feel about the challenges that await?
A: We've got Southern Fulton, too [in the last game]. Coaches like to be playing their better basketball at the end of the season, and I think we're starting to. But these teams are good. We're going to have to play well. We have a game with Mount Union, too, and they're not too bad. We're going to have to come to play every night.