Jan. 19 was not a good day for the Mission boys’ basketball team.
That day, the Bears were blitzed by Academic Athletic Association foe International Studies Academy 94-76, dropping their record to a very pedestrian 7-8.
Things didn’t appear much better last week, when the Bears faced ISA again, this time in the San Francisco Section quarterfinals and promptly found themselves trailing 24-8 after the first quarter.
Despite the early, overwhelming deficit, the resilient Bears did not give up on their season, instead mounting a stunning comeback led by their sterling backcourt combo of Demaree Hampton and Harry Howard to defeat the heavily favored Cobras 84-74.
Howard, a junior shooting guard, and Hampton, a sophomore point guard, combined to score 43 points and the Bears outscored ISA 32-14 in the fourth quarter (including 12 by Howard) to cap off the win and send a message to the rest of the AAA teams — with Howard and Hampton, the Bears can beat any team, any time.
"Harry likes to spot up in the corner and, when I penetrate, I have the option of giving it up to him or taking it to the basket," said Hampton, a returning first-team All-Academic Athletic Association selection who is averaging 16.6 points and 5.7 assists per game this season. "Either way, we’re going to put points on the board, and that makes us hard to stop."
The Bears’ victory over ISA improved their record to 14-11 and set up a showdown with Lincoln — another team Mission would like to exact a little revenge on — today in the sectionsemifinals at Kezar Pavilion.
Lincoln beat the Bears twice this season, including a 74-64 victory a little over a week ago in which Mission committed 33 turnovers and Howard was held to just nine points.
In a display of their endless competitive nature, both players are eager to atone for their performances in the last meeting.
"Harry and Demaree are great individuals, but what’s so exciting about them is their competitiveness and their desire for their team to be successful," Bears coach Judson Steele said. "Their personal accolades are impressive, but what sets them apart is their drive to see the team succeed."
Hampton, a starter since his freshman year, knows the importance of both players’ roles against Lincoln, a team that thrives on its constant full-court pressure defense.
"We have to do a better job of playing in control and not making that many mistakes," said Hampton, who had 19 points in the teams’ last meeting. "If we see our team losing focus, we’ve got to slow everything down and make sure we don’t let the game get away."
With Hampton most likely being hounded all game by Lincoln’s assortment of quick guards, Howard will have to assume plenty of ball-handling duties on top of his role as the Bears’ top outside shooting threat.
"It’s very important for Demaree and I to play well," said Howard, who is averaging 15 points a game this season. "We’ve played on different rec league and gym teams a lot over the past two years, so we know each other’s games and feed off each other. We have to make sure that we bring that intensity to the rest of the team."