If Thursday night's game was a true indication, Mount Hebron's girlsbasketball team is in for a challenging ride as it pursues a state-record, seventh state championship.
Hebron, which clinched its 12thcounty title in 14 seasons Tuesday, wrapped up its ninth 14-0 seasonagainst the county with a 56-42 victory over visiting Glenelg Thursday.
On the surface, the 21-1 Vikings would appear to be a lock to wintheir third consecutive state crown and sixth in the last seven years. They have won 21 straight. They have avoided injuries. They have upheld their No. 1 area ranking for 11 weeks.
But Hebron has experienced some shaky moments this month.
Three weeks ago, they trailedGlenelg by six points midway through the fourth quarter before scoring 18 straight to beat the Gladiators.
Two weeks ago, they escapedwith a four-point victory at Hammond.
And Thursday night, the Gladiators let Hebron know their first encounter was no fluke.
Although the 14-point margin of victory doesn't show it, Glenelg pushed theVikings to the limit again. Glenelg cut an eight-point deficit in half with five minutes left in the game to trail Hebron, 42-38. The Vikings responded with another show of mettle by scoring eight unanswered points in the final 2:30 to put the game away.
"I thought we hadthem (Hebron) this time," said Glenelg senior guard Tanissa Dorsey, who put on another offensive show and led all scorers with 24 points."We've lost to them twice, but we're getting closer and closer. We've got to get them in the states."
If the Vikings and Gladiators face off again, it will happen at the 2A state tournament in two weeks at Catonsville Community College. Hebron and Glenelg (9-5, 15-7) eachgo into this week's regional playoffs as the top seed in their respective regions. They met in the state semifinals last year, when Glenelg gave the Vikings a scare, but eventually lost, 47-40.
"We hung with them (Hebron) at our place and beat them for 3 1/2 quarters, andwe didn't embarrass ourselves at their place," said Glenelg coach Chuck Struhar. "We know we can play with them."
But before Hebron gets to the state tournament, the Vikings will likely have to hurdle another roadblock -- Hammond.
The Golden Bears (10-4, 17-4) rebounded from their tough Hebron loss with impressive victories over Glenelgand Howard to finish the regular season with a 6-1 streak. If the Bears -- third-seeded in region II -- get through the first two playoffrounds as expected, they should play at Hebron Friday night for the regional title.
"It's hard enough playing anybody a third time, especially when they're both good teams," said Hebron coach Dave Greenberg.
The Vikings overcame several obstacles Thursday. They outlasted a tenacious Glenelg defense, which threw a variety of man-to-man and zone coverages that kept the Vikings off balance.
Point guard Erica McCauley, who scored eight points in the first quarter, managed just three more. But McCauley was productive in other areas, with sixassists and six rebounds.
Hebron also survived another terrific performance by Dorsey, who had seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. Dorsey, who scored 64 points in the regular season's final week, including a school-record 40 in an 82-33 victory over Atholton, finished the season as the county's top scorer (19.2).
Dorsey scorednine points in the fourth quarter, when she personally kept Glenelg close. But, as they've done on several occasions, the Gladiators -- including Dorsey -- faded late. She committed two turnovers in the final two minutes, and fouled out near the end.
And the Vikings won despite a sub-par performance by sophomore guard Emily Yanero, their leading scorer. Yanero scored only six points, mainly because she spent much of the evening on the bench in foul trouble.
That's where junior forward Kris Bryant came into the picture. Bryant, arguably thedominant player in the county, led the Vikings with 21 points -- on 10-for-15 shooting -- and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
Dazzling Glenelg with an assortment of hook shots, scoop shots and power moves, Bryant scored eight points in the second period to lead Hebron toa 30-22 halftime lead. She added nine points in the fourth quarter to put the Gladiators away.
"Dorsey is really good. But our kids came through, even though we had a key player on the bench," Greenberg said. "We won because we played hard. If we play that hard and get beat, more power to the team that beats us."