Chuck Monninger, a staunch believer in the Bobby Knight style of team effort, tough defense and work for the good shot, has the Mount Hebron Vikings playing well, but not quite well enough to win consistently against a tough schedule.
"It's discouraging to lose four of six, all six of which we could have won," Monninger said. "But the effort has been great. And they believe in what we are trying to do."
Monninger returned as head coach after being away from the stress of coaching for three years, but he doesn't seem to have missed a beat.
His team Friday night at Mount Hebron played decently, and the smart, disciplined Monninger style was clearly evident.
But in the end, the Vikings lost, 65-60, to Aberdeen because they missed too many layups. The Vikings missed three straight layups to start the second half and allowed Aberdeen to balloon a 34-32 halftime lead to a 40-32 lead.
Then, trailing 61-58 with less than two minutes to play, the Vikings missed two more layups and Aberdeen went up by five, 63-58.
A couple of free throws by Mark Jantac (16 points) closed the gap to 63-60 with a minute to go. Jantac, a 6-3 center, scored 12 points in the second quarter.
With the game on the line, Mount Hebron got sloppy handling the ball, making two turnovers and allowing the Eagles to win.
"We've got to box out better than we did. They (Aberdeen) got too many stick-backs," Monninger said. "Rebounding is 90 percent positioning and desire."
Aberdeen coach Ron Petrey was happy with the way his team played Friday.
The Eagles are 4-2, having lost to Mount St. Joseph and Elkton. The St. Joe loss was in triple overtime, and St. Joe has beaten one of the best teams in the Baltimore area, Walbrook.
"This game was pivotal for us because we had regressed after St. Joe," Petrey said. "But we played smart and hard at the end tonight."
Petrey was impressed with Mount Hebron: "Mount Hebron is a very good team and Chuck (Monninger) does a great job coaching them. They play hard and smart."
Aberdeen is one of three Harford County teams Mount Hebron has played.
The Vikings lost to Edgewood, 61-56, and beat Fallston, 61-48.
"Edgewood is the best team in our county, and this win means we should be able to play on their level," Petrey said.
Mount Hebron was tied with Edgewood with 15 seconds left before losing.
The Vikings also led an excellent Southern of Anne Arundel County team in the first half before losing by 10 points.
"We're making progress, but not quite enough," Monninger said.
Both Aberdeen and the Vikings shot extremely well from the floor. The Vikings were 29-for-59 (49 percent), and the Eagles were 29-for-56 (52 percent).
Jantac and Andre Johnson, a transfer from Wilde Lake, are tied for the team scoring lead with 69 points. Jantac leads in rebounding with 42 and Johnson is right behind with 38.
"Andre gives us some quickness that we really needed," Monninger said.
"He's doing a fine job."
Point guard Derrick Dorsey also is playing well with 31 assists and 45 points.
Bob Sites has 60 points, giving the Vikings three players with a 10-point or better scoring average.
Chris Vissers is also capable of scoring in double figures. He had 14 against Aberdeen.
As a team, Mount Hebron is averaging 54 points per game and giving up 57. In their two victories against St. Mary's and Fallston the Vikings held their opponents to under 50.
Mount Hebron's deliberate half-court offense is not likely to score much more than 60 points per game.
"We tried to run tonight and maybe too hard," Monninger said.