How much better can Mount Hebron's girls basketball team perform?
A week ago, the defending 2A state champion Vikings added another chapter to their illustrious history book by beating top-ranked Westernof Baltimore City. That moved Hebron into the No. 1 spot in the Baltimore metropolitan area rankings.
The Vikings then treated their fans to an amazing encore -- a 68-18 bombing of North Carroll of Carroll County -- in their home opener Wednesday.
The victory came as no surprise. Hebron, winners of five of the last six 2A titles and 11 of the last 13 county titles and the favorites to win both again this year, expected to beat North Carroll.
The 50-point margin of victory was another story.
North Carroll was off to a 3-1 start, one of its victories coming against always-solid Glenelg. The Panthers had played Hebron fairly tough in a losing effort last December. And the Vikings, four days after such anemotional victory at Western, seemed ripe for a letdown.
It was obvious four minutes into the game, after the Vikings had opened with 13 unanswered points, that a mismatch was under way.
Hebron's man-to-man defense and the inside-outside offensive combination of forward Kris Bryant and guards Erica McCauley and Emily Yanero gave the Panthers too much to handle. The Vikings, who pressured the Panthers into most of their paltry, 7-for-52 shooting (13 percent), stretched their lead to 35-8 at halftime and 50-10 at the end of three quarters. Hebron continued to build the lead even after Coach Dave Greenberg emptied his bench midway through the final period.
Did somebody mention a letdown?
"We were pretty worried about that today," said Kris Bryant, Hebron's junior 6-foot forward, who gave North Carroll more fits than anyone. Bryant outscored the Panthers single-handedly with a game-high 21 points on 10-for-14 shooting (71 percent). She also dominated the boards, grabbing a game-high 16 rebounds,seven offensive.
McCauley, Hebron's superb junior point guard, scored 14 points, nine on three-pointers, and added six steals and fourassists. Sophomore guard Yanero, coming off a 25-point effort against Western, added 16 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. The Vikingstied a school record with 55 rebounds. The Panthers managed 31.
"We remember last year when we played them (North Carroll). We got ahead early, then let them come back," Bryant added. "We know we have tokeep working the whole time, we have to keep up the intensity. We'renot good enough to relax. I think we can play a lot better."
Which must come as unpleasant news to the county opponents lined up to face Hebron next month. The No. 1 Vikings, who have won three straight since dropping their season opener to Strathaven High School at the Strathaven (Pa.) Tournament, typically save their best basketball for the season's stretch run. They rarely look this polished in December.
Even Greenberg, normally difficult to please, is allowing himselfto rave about them.
"We were horrible at the tournament. The kidsknew it and they didn't feel good about it. They found out what it will take (to repeat as state champs)," he said. "Then we had a terrific week of practice before Western.
"The kids work really well together. It's a much more cohesive, unselfish group than last year. They like each other, and they're accepting of their roles. They're surprising me. This could potentially be a real impressive group."