The scene was vintage Dave Greenberg.
His top-ranked Mount Hebron girls basketball team had just routed a fine Howard team by 43 points, and Greenberg praised his players for their best performance of the season.
Then the coach turned critical. He spoke of defensive lapses, even after Hebron had limited the Lions to a season-low 29 points, half of their season average. He complained about turnovers, even after the Vikings had scored 43 in the second half against the Lions, then the area's fourth-ranked team.
"He [Greenberg] makes sure we don't accept average," Hebron junior forward Tierney Clark said. "And he never lets us think we're good."
Which may be one reason the Vikings have attained and sustained such success during Greenberg's 14 seasons as coach. If the Vikings win the 2A championship in two weeks, it would mark their third consecutive state title, their sixth in the past seven years and a state-record seventh overall.
Last week, the Vikings (21-1) took care of business at home. They wrapped up their 12th Howard County title under Greenberg on Tuesday with a 64-32 victory over Wilde Lake. And Thursday's 56-42 victory over Glenelg gave Hebron its ninth 14-0 season against county competition. Hebron rolls into this week's regional playoffs with a 21-game winning streak.
Winning has been a tradition at Hebron, where Greenberg never has had a losing season. His career 287-55 record (.839 winning percentage) and 183-13 league record (.934) tell much of the story.
The rest has to be seen to be appreciated. When the Vikings are performing on a typically good night, they elevate girls basketball to a higher level.
"His [Greenberg's] teams do things that guys teams don't," said Terry Coleman, Glenelg's boys basketball coach.
Hebron's fierce man-to-man defense and patient, unselfish offense have become trademarks. The Vikings delight in making the great pass or setting the perfect pick as much as they do in scoring. They don't fold in close games. They bring an uncommon blend of work ethic, poise, intelligence and fundamentals to the floor every night.
"The best things about our program are our practices and our system," said Greenberg, 44. "It's a simple system based on very structured practices. Everything is based on fundamentals and conditioning, nothing fancy. We don't allow a kid to make a lazy pass. Scoring 20 points isn't as important as being in the right place on the floor.
"And we've got kids who are smart, incredibly unselfish and receptive to what we do," he said. "They are willing to sacrifice individual glory for the team, knowing in the end the individual glory will come if they stick with us."
This year's Vikings are led by three of the area's better players. Junior point guard Erica McCauley is the county's premier outside shooter (13.7 points per game) and ballhandler (4.6 assists per game). Sophomore guard Emily Yanero leads Hebron in scoring (14.9 ppg) and tops the county in free-throw shooting (81 percent). And 6-foot junior forward Kris Bryant (14.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg) has emerged as the league's best low-post player.
The Vikings also depend on role players, a Hebron trait. This season, they have received important contributions from junior forward Sandra Benson (5.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and defensive specialists Clark and junior guard Lori Pasquantonio.
"Everyone knows their role, and we step up at different times," Yanero said.
Greenberg points to other reasons for Hebron's perennial success. He credits assistant coach Brad Rees and scout Jim Stromberg, who have been with him for 10 years. His players, at his urging, devote substantial time to honing their skills in the off-season.
"Some people think just because we go to Hebron, we're going to win," Clark said. "We win because we work harder."
"It's total discipline and dedication to doing what he [Greenberg] wants done," Atholton coach Graydon Webster said.
The typical Hebron team consists of fair athletes who turn themselves into superb basketball players. This season's team is a prime example. The Vikings, despite not having one senior on the roster and having one of the slower teams in the county, have left opponents frustrated.
"His program isn't based on totally talented players," said Amy Mallon, who played on state championship teams in 1987 and 1988 and is now a senior attending St. Joseph's on a basketball scholarship. "It's based on defense and a team concept."
Greenberg, a guidance counselor at Hebron for 15 years, also points to his team's success in the classroom, a top priority on his list of team rules. This year's team has a 3.3 grade-point average, and has four players with a 4.0 -- Yanero, Benson, McCauley and Kristen Lloyd. During Greenberg's tenure, 22 players have received academic or basketball scholarships.
"I owe him a lot," said Mallon, who helps Greenberg at his summer basketball camp. "He really prepared me for college. You don't realize until you're out how much he meant to you."