Friday night's clash between Oakland Mills and Mount Hebron provideda perfect snapshot of what makes the county girls basketball scene so inviting.
First, Hebron and Oakland Mills are two of the top five teams in the state. Each has an excellent chance of showing up at Catonsville Community College in March for the state tournament -- Oakland Mills in the 3A division, Hebron in the 2A. In a county packed with competition, especially playoff contenders like Glenelg and Howard, Oakland Mills and Hebron are the class of the league.
The Scorpions and Vikings didn't disappoint in Friday night's 43-42 Oakland Mills victory.
The victory sent the Scorpions into euphoria, since they'd finally shaken off their most troublesome monkey by beating Hebron for the first time in nearly eight years. It also landed Greenberg in front of his VCR at 6 a.m. the following morning, when he watched a replay of his first county loss in nearly two years, and only his 13th league defeat in 13 seasons. (Why couldn't it have happened on January 13?)
The game was at once sloppy and artistic, physical and finesse. With the exception of the Scorpions' decisive 14-2 run that erased a six-point Hebron lead in the middle of the third quarter, it was virtually even. Oakland Mills outrebounded Hebron by a 36-35 margin, and committed 18 turnovers to Hebron's 17.
The sloppiness was best evidenced by the poor shooting on each side. The Vikings shot just 29 percent from the floor (16-for-55), and without Andrea Day's outstanding 7-for-10 night, the percentage shrinks to a minuscule 20. The Scorpions fared little better, hitting just 34 percent (16-for-46) and getting 32 points from Mia Dammen and Andrea Romich.
Each team was equally unreliable at the foul line where Hebron made only 7 of 14 attempts, the Scorpions 11 of 20.
The Scorpions and Vikings missed their share of open baskets, but the main reason for the low score centered on the heart of these teams -- dogged man-to-man defense. Oakland Mills came into the game averaging 66 points. Hebron was scoring 56.
Hebron senior guards Cescili Drake and Christy McCauley were held scoreless on combined 0-for-14 shooting.
That, along with the tireless hustle of Dammen (16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, seven steals) at guard was the difference in the contest. Many of the shots by Drake and McCauley -- who sat out most of the final six minutes after getting poked in the eye -- were eitheraltered or thrown up as the 30-second shot clock was about to expire. Most of them were of the low-percentage variety far from the hoop.
Even Hebron's Erica McCauley, who hit three three-pointers as she scored 11 points, labored all night to get open with Dammen and pointguard Stefanie Magro on her.
Hebron made an impressive late run, cutting a 38-30 deficit to one point three times in the last three minutes. But on the game's final play, Dammen and Romich (16 points, eight rebounds) teamed up as they had done for 32 non-stop minutes together. Dammen led Romich with a perfect half-court, inbound pass that Romich ran down before dribbling out the final four seconds along thebaseline.
"You'd think we could've gotten one (basket) from them (Drake or Christy McCauley)," said Greenberg. "When we looked at the film together Monday, the girls were sick about it. They know they missed some good shots, they know they had some mental breakdowns on defense. It was a great game between two of the best teams around. I just wish we could've played one more minute."
Said Oakland Mills coach Teresa Waters, "It's not like we could go home and say we played our best. It was the kind of game where you go home and think about all the things you could have done better. We beat a real reputable, good team, but there's still much to do."
Much could happen in the league standings between now and the scheduled Feb. 12 rematch at Hebron. Regardless, here's betting the county title will be decided thatnight.
Former Atholton superstar and Howard County Sun Player of the Year Sherri Orlosky is making quite a freshman impression at Notre Dame, where the Fighting Irish surged into the Top 25 this week. Notre Dame has won 10 straight to improve its record to 11-3 andis ranked 20th in the latest Associated Press poll.
Orlosky may soon become a starter. She had been averaging three points, 1.5 rebounds and 10 minutes a game before the Irish lost four players to academic ineligibility. Now, said assistant coach Dave Glass, the 5-foot-11guard/forward may be seeing more than 25 minutes of action regularly. She is shooting 45 percent from the floor.
"I expect her to score six to 10 points a game. Her production should at least double all around," Glass said. "She's getting a lot of experience now, and she always has the green light to shoot against zone defenses. I look forSherri to be a big impact-type of player for her career. And she's a4.0 student, so you never have to worry about her grades."