By the middle of the high school girls' basketball season, it had become clear who the county's top two players were -- Mount Hebron sophomore point guard Erica McCauley and Howard senior guard Kristi Greer.
And as the season wound down, McCauley appeared to be inching ahead, but the question of who was best still came down to those two.
So we have taken the easy -- call it wimpy -- way out. The HowardCounty Sun bestows Co-Player of the Year honors on McCauley and Greer.
Statistically, Greer seems the clear-cut choice. She led the county in scoring and assists, led all guards in rebounding, led the Lions in steals, and set a school career scoring record. She improved her shooting tremendously after her junior year. But basketball involves more than charting players' hard-copy production in the form of numbers.
McCauley's strongest points were her superior ball handlingand outside shooting. Granted, she was also blessed with a better, deeper supporting cast than Greer. That support was crucial to Hebron's fifth state championship in six seasons.
But McCauley and Hebronalso took on a killer out-of-county schedule, as compared with Howard's. The Vikings faced Baltimore City power Seton Keough, eventual 3Achampion DuVal of Prince George's County and eventual 4A runner-up Springbrook of Montgomery County. Did we forget Downingtown High, one of the top teams in Pennsylvania, which gave the 23-3 Vikings a 60-26licking?
And as far as deciding which player was more valuable toher team, well, therein lies another tough call. The Lions would have been in worse shape without Greer because of their lack of depth, but could Hebron have gone all the way without McCauley? We seriously doubt it. Without her, Hebron would still have been a very good team,but not a great team.
We'll start with McCauley. The scary thing about her talent, Mount Hebron coach Dave Greenberg insists, is that because of a lower back problem that kept her out most of her freshman year, we have yet to see the best of McCauley. If that's the case, she's treated us to some kind of sneak preview.
McCauley led the Vikings in scoring (15.5 points), which included outstanding 44 percent shooting from three-point range. She hit 52 treys, shattering her previous school record of 11. She hit 46 percent of her two-point shots. She also hit 67 percent of her free throws, while going to the foul line more than any other Hebron player. She scored 20 or more points six times and failed to reach double figures just twice in 26 games. In 10 games, she shot at least 50 percent from the floor.
A superb ball handler, McCauley distributed the ball smoothly to her teammates, averaging a team-high 4.8 assists. She also took care of the ball better than any point guard in the league, commiting an average of 2.2 turnovers. Why did the Vikings average 59.3 points a game? Silly question.
McCauley was no slouch on defense. She led the team withfive steals a game, and despite her 5-foot-1 frame, she was able to grab 3.5 rebounds a game.
"It's hard to contain yourself and not rave about her," Greenberg said. "She does so many things well and makes so few mistakes. She's good enough to contribute to the boys' team."
Greer wound up a four-year career at Howard -- the last three as a starter under coach Craig O'Connell -- with her best season.
Greer jumped to an early lead among county scorers and never looked back. She led the county with 19.5 points a game on 40 percent shootingfrom the floor and 60 percent shooting at the line. Greer broke the 1,000-point barrier in January, broke the school career scoring record last month, and finished with 1,298 points.
That's just the beginning. The 5-6 Greer, who ran the point occasionally but usually played on the wing, enjoyed mixing it up underneath, where she grabbed anastounding 9.7 rebounds a game to lead county guards.
Her passinggame also improved from her junior season, as her team-leading 6.3 assists average shows. She also grabbed four steals a game.
s Even more notable is that Greer -- also a soccer star at Howard -- didn't begin to concentrate on basketball until last year. But you'd hardly know it by the career she put together for the Lions.
"I was just thinking, this is what I need to walk in the front door at Howard next year," O'Connell said. "I need a ninth grader who's going to average 14.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.1 steals over four years."
Don't hold your breath, coach.