Mount Hebron coach Dave Greenberg and Glenelg coach Barb Wolf look at Catonsville Community College -- site of this weekend's state girlsbasketball tournament -- from vastly different perspectives.
Greenberg could probably find his way around the Catonsville gym blindfolded. He has taken the Vikings there four times in the last five years, and each time has returned with a state championship.
Wolf, not far removed from terrific basketball careers at Glenelgand Western Maryland College, is winding up a memorable first year as the Gladiators' coach. She has led Glenelg back to the state tournament after a one-year absence. But as a player at Glenelg, she never got to experience Catonsville in March.
One of their seasons will have to end Friday, when Hebron and Glenelg meet in a 5 p.m. semifinal. The winner advances to Saturday's 1 p.m. Class 2A championship game.
"I'm amazed I'm going there," Wolf said the day after the Gladiators (17-6) won the Region I title by beating homestanding Watkins Mill (Montgomery County), 57-42. "I never thought we'd get there. It wasn't something I thought was within reach. Now, all of a sudden, we're in the states. I'm just enjoying this for a day."
Greenberg comes from a different background. The Vikings (21-3), county champions for the 11th time in 13 seasons under him, have come to be regarded as expected guests at the annual Catonsville party. And Greenberg, whose Vikings dispatched Towson (Baltimore County), 78-53, to win the Region II championship, has his sights firmly set on Hebron's fifth state crown in six years.
"We were not that good a team a month and ahalf ago, and back then I didn't think we'd be playing this well," he said. "We've really been explosive offensively the last few weeks, and our defense is much better than it was earlier. If we play well and do the things we're supposed to do, we should win it."
Greenberg worries about playing a team three times, especially after the Vikings have beaten it twice. That is the case with Glenelg, whom the Vikings handled each time during the regular season, by scores of 59-47 and 68-41.
Since losing to Oakland Mills on Jan. 18, Hebron has beaten 13 straight opponents by an average of 24.5 points. Saturday, the team reminded a large crowd at Hebron why by overwhelming Towson with a potent combination of man-to-man defense and outside shooting.
Sophomore point guard Erica McCauley, who has been remarkable all year, riddled Towson's 2-3 zone defense by scoring a game-high 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting from the floor. McCauley, who committed no turnovers, was 3-for-4 from three-point range. The only trey she missed was a 30-footer that was barely short as the first-quarter buzzer sounded.
By that time, the issue had pretty much been decided, as Hebron led, 22-6.
"We're in a different league (than Towson)," Greenberg said.
Senior forward Andrea Day (13 points, 11 rebounds, sixsteals) and McCauley each scored nine first-quarter points to ignitethe Vikings. The rest of the team joined in soon after. Senior guardChristy McCauley scored 10 points, including two three-pointers. Sophomore forward Kris Bryant scored 11 on 4-for-5 shooting from the floor. Senior guard Cescili Drake had nine assists.
While Hebron has seen its season build gradually to another trip to the states, Glenelg's road has been much bumpier.
The Gladiators got off to an impressive 5-1 start, before losing to Howard and Hebron in the first two weeks of the county schedule. Then they rebounded with their biggest victory of the season, a 50-49 double-overtime thriller at Oakland Mills.
Shortly after that, Glenelg lost senior forward Leslie Service -- a hero in the Oakland Mills victory -- to a foot fracture. But even her presence probably wouldn't have helped Glenelg at Howard on Feb. 1, when the Gladiators were blown out, 58-32.
"I experienced such a high after Oakland Mills that I didn't think I would ever come down," Wolf recalled. "The second Howard loss was the worst. We were going to be in big trouble if we didn't bounce back mentally. We're avery good team, but once you lose it in your minds, you're in trouble."
The Gladiators went 4-2 after the Howard rout, losing to Oakland Mills and Hebron. But more notably, they barely got by Centennial,Atholton and Wilde, three of the league's second-division teams, andstruggled to finish in fourth place with a 9-5 league record.
Glenelg then received a lift when Service's injury healed quicker than expected, allowing her to return for the regional playoffs.
The postseason has revealed the same inconsistencies that marked Glenelg formuch of the regular season. In the regional semifinal against Middletown, the Gladiators jumped out to a 20-8 first-quarter lead, only tohit a drought that saw them score a combined seven points in the second and third quarters. The Gladiators lost the lead, then rallied inthe fourth period for a 47-40 victory.