A little respect would make a nice Christmas gift.
The Centennial boys are hoping for that when they take the basketball court against Francis Scott Key Thursday in the semifinals of the North Carroll Christmas Tournament.
"All I want for Christmas is two holiday tournament victories and some respect for our basketball program," said coach Jim Hill, after his team had waltzed to a 76-64 victory over Westminster Friday.
Hill's team is not blessed with height, but gets the job done with a collection of aggressive, blue-collar types who would rather collapse than quit.
Visiting Westminster rolled into the Eagles' nest Friday, boasting high-scoring Herman Costley (32 points per game), but point guard Austin Groves hounded Costley all over the court and got help from 6-foot center Charlie Stewart.
"Yes, I'm the center -- for the football team," said Stewart, who finished with a game- and personal-high of 20 points.
Costley, who had scored 43 points against Howard last Tuesday, was limited to 15 points.
Groves, meanwhile, chipped in with 11 points and sophomore Damian Biggs added 17 points. Chad Harris and Todd Downen each added 10 and Harris pulled down 17 rebounds.
Stewart, still only a junior, traveled with the varsity team last winter to watch the tourney action at North Carroll. The home team defeated the Eagles for the title.
"I would like to have a couple of good games and bring back a championship," said Stewart. "We were worried how we would do, playing on the last day of school before the holidays. Coach asked us to give him another hour and a half, then we could go do whatever we wanted to get ready for the holidays."
"The kids gave me four full quarters," said Hill. "That's the first time this season that they have played a consistent four quarters."
Hill said the Eagles (3-2) never have finished with a better record than 13-11.
"I think if we can get two tournament victories, it could lead to good things down the road," said Hill, who lost seniors Brian Reid and Sean Barth before the season even began.
Reid, an All-Metro honorable mention punter, was injured in an auto accident during the football season.
Barth, who is out with a broken hand, is expected back by the time the Howard County season begins next month. But Reid's injury, a severed quadriceps muscle, will cost him the entire season.
The Eagles have showed no signs of yielding to those setbacks, and that alone should earn them the respect they are seeking.