Basketball won't bounce to form

January 08, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

As Howard County's basketball season gets under way, a refreshing air of uncertainty surrounds the league.

In past years, one could pencil in the following prognostications, sit back and watch them come true.

Among the boys teams, Oakland Mills was the class of the county. Despite one, maybe two, stiff challengers, the Scorpions always emerged in first, where they've ended up for the past five seasons.

You could write the same scenario regarding Mount Hebron's girls team, which has won 12 of the past 14 county championships under coach Dave Greenberg.

Well, wipe the slates clean.

The county looks more evenly matched than at any time in years. Wilde Lake coach Paul Ellis summed up the boys league nicely.

"Between me and [assistant coach] Jerry [Keith], we've seen all the teams. The league looks frightening to me," Ellis said. "I look around and I feel we can play with anybody. But I don't see any sure things out there."

One sure thing is this: Oakland Mills will not win the county championship. The Scorpions (2-5) are too young and inexperienced.

It's tempting to pick Centennial. After all, the Eagles are 7-1, they are giving up only 53 points a game, highly touted senior forward Damian Biggs is averaging a team-high 18.6 points and the Eagles never have won a title.

Just when Centennial looks like a safe pick, though, along comes what looks like the best Glenelg team ever.

The Gladiators are 7-1. Senior Jason Beall is leading the county with a 21-point scoring average, guards Scott Cline and Jamie Brinker are combining for 22 points and eight assists a game, and the Gladiators are holding opponents to 55 points a game.

And let's not dismiss Wilde Lake. Ellis thinks the league looks frightening? On a good night, the Wildecats look that way, too. Deon Wingfield, Taronn Evans, Ramone Myers and Seth Willingham form one of the county's more dangerous foursomes. Wilde Lake is averaging 73 points during its 3-3 start. A little consistency takes this team a long way.

Then there's Mount Hebron (4-2), a team that is missing a true point guard and lacks size and leadership but always comes prepared under coach Scott Robinson. No team's game plan frustrates an opponent more.

Howard (2-4) and Hammond (1-4) lack cohesiveness, but Hammond has Kris Jefferson, Howard has Javier Michaus -- both look like all-county players -- and each team has the kind of quickness and athletic ability that could lead to a long night for anyone in the county.

And Atholton (3-4) never looks as good on paper as it does while it's on the floor, making Jim Albert look like the vastly underrated coach that he is.

Fourteen games to go before the county champion emerges.

The way the league is shaping up, it could be a two- or three-way tie for the title. A 9-5 record could be all it takes.

The girls title chase isn't as muddled. Mount Hebron, Hammond and Howard are the class of the county. Who is the best?

Hammond would seem to be the logical choice. The Golden Bears have more height, quickness and depth than anyone else, and the entire starting lineup from last year's state championship team returned. They bolted off to a 4-0 start, and everything was going according to plan.

But then, Hammond flopped in the IABBO Tournament, losing to bTC Old Mill and DuVal and finishing sixth, and the Bears looked flat doing it. They don't look so invincible now.

Howard went through a similar funk. After winning two games impressively to start the season, the Lions played perhaps their worst two games of coach Craig O'Connell's five-year stint in losing to South Carroll and Linganore. They've rebounded to win three straight. As long as Camille Powell and Sharon Ford avoid foul trouble, the Lions should be OK. And freshman sensation Tresa Silcott should return in two weeks from an arm injury.

Mount Hebron, the team that among the Big Three was supposed to suffer the most since it lost All-Met Player of the Year Kris Bryant presumably for the season to a knee injury, has emerged as the most stable team.

The Vikings are 6-2, thanks largely to senior point guard Erica McCauley and junior guard Emily Yanero. They hung tough three weeks ago with Christ the King -- a New York-based school ranked third nationally at the time -- then won last week's Warhawk Classic tournament in Vienna, Va.

For the first time in five years, the Vikings are not the favorites to win the county.

That makes them the most dangerous underdogs out there.

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