Oakland Mills' girls basketball team has lived with its share of frustration during this rebuilding season. Then, along came Wednesday's 51-44 victory over Howard to give the Scorpions some hope for the future.
"It was good to be able to smile for a change," Oakland Mills coach Teresa Waters said.
The victory, only the Scorpions' third against the county, improved their record to 4-11. If they move into the competitive ranks of the county next year, the Scorpions may look back on this victory as a launching pad.
Oakland Mills pulled off the biggest upset of the season with a stunning fourth-quarter comeback. Trailing 40-30 after three periods, the Scorpions outscored Howard, 21-4. They did it mainly by rattling the Lions -- who were missing senior point guard Camille Powell (flu) -- with their full-court press.
Sophomore 6-foot-1 center Lauren McHargue (11.2 points, 13.8 rebounds), who has been the Scorpions' leader all year, came through in the clutch by scoring eight of her 15 points in the fourth quarter.
"Even though they [Howard] didn't have Camille, I went in there with the hope of beating them, but not thinking that we could," Waters said.
Waters said she didn't feel comfortable until the final buzzer sounded, even though the Scorpions led by seven points with 15 seconds remaining.
"We've lost an eight-point lead in 30 seconds before, so anything could have happened," she said. "But the girls played superbly, and I'm proud of them."
The defeat was devastating for Howard (12-5, 6-3). The fading Lions dropped their third game in five outings. But the loss wasn't all that shocking.
Howard has gotten by with a lack of depth all year. That shortcoming has been exposed several times in the last three LTC weeks. In each case, the problem could be traced to the absence of Powell. She has been the glue for the Lions the past two years.
Three weeks ago, Powell sprained her ankle in the opening minutes at Mount Hebron, then watched as the Lions fell apart, eventually losing by 39 points.
A week later, Powell rested the ankle, and Howard nearly lost to last-place Centennial, before escaping with a 53-50 victory. Wednesday night, the Lions collapsed in the fourth period at Oakland Mills.
"Without her [Powell], our press isn't the same, our half-court defense isn't the same and our offense isn't the same," Howard coach Craig O'Connell said.
Hammond boys emerging
In the crowded boys basketball standings -- Oakland Mills, Hammond, Centennial and Glenelg are separated by one game -- the team that could emerge from the pack is Hammond.
The Golden Bears have the best combination of height, quickness and most important, depth. What other team has a guard like Kris Jefferson coming off the bench? He scored 24 points in Wednesday's 68-64 victory over Glenelg.
The warmest moment of Hammond's season took place last week during its 62-43 whipping of Atholton. It happened when James McPherson, the 12th man, scored the final four points of the game by dribbling through Atholton's defense for two layups. Hammond's fans and bench went wild after each basket.
Why all the fuss? Those marked the first points McPherson scored this season after missing all of last season while rehabilitating his knee. He tore up the knee during the last game of Hammond's 1991 football season. He required major reconstructive surgery.
"He [McPherson] is a great role model for any kid who feels like giving up," Hammond coach Jack Burke said. "Every day, he comes to practice, puts on that big old ugly [knee] brace and does everything we tell him to do. He's so happy just to be on the bench. The kids love him."
Speaking of Hammond, Burke needs one more win to tie Mike Mongelli for the school record of most victories by a boys basketball coach. Burke goes for the record (110) Tuesday against Centennial.
Justin Wethington and Paul Knox, two fine football players who came back from injuries this year, have been rewarded for their perseverance.
Wethington, a 6-2, 230-pound linebacker from Oakland Mills, has received a full grant-in-aid from Bucknell, where he figures to play linebacker. After a strong junior year, Wethington's senior season turned sour against North County in the opening game, when he fractured his lower leg. He didn't return for seven weeks.
"All of the major schools who were looking at him started dropping like hot potatoes," Oakland Mills coach Ken Klock said. Those schools included Maryland, Wake Forest, Duke and Colorado.
Knox, a linebacker/defensive back for Wilde Lake, traveled a similar route before signing a letter of intent last week to attend Shepherd (W. Va.) College.
He fractured his forearm during the Wildecats' second game against Dundalk, and didn't return until the 1A playoffs. Knox, a ferocious hitter, will play strong safety at Shepherd.
Howard High needs an assistant boys lacrosse coach. Call (410) 313-2874.
Oakland Mills needs a varsity girls lacrosse coach. Call (410) 313-6953.
Wilde Lake needs a varsity softball coach. Call (410) 313-6973.