O'Connell savors end of Hebron hex

February 21, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

The way Craig O'Connell spoke Friday morning, one never would have guessed that he had hardly slept all night.

"I couldn't sleep, but I'm still way up," said O'Connell, the day after his Howard girls basketball team pulled off one of the biggest victories in the history of the program with a 39-38 victory over Mount Hebron.

"I was waiting for the president to call, but he never did," O'Connell said jokingly.

It marked Howard's first victory over Hebron during coach Dave Greenberg's 15-year tenure. It took O'Connell 10 tries over five seasons to beat Greenberg. And it took a superb defensive effort by the Lions to avenge an embarrassing 64-25 defeat at Hebron a month ago.

In hindsight, the Vikings, who hadn't lost a game in two months, were ripe for the picking. They were coming off an emotionally exhausting overtime win over Hammond the night before. And, after that 39-point blowout over Howard -- which lost point guard Camille Powell in the opening minutes to a sprained ankle -- the Vikings may have fallen prey to a false sense of superiority.

"Sure, there probably was a letdown, but that's no excuse. We still have to play the games," Greenberg said. "They beat us because they played better. They are tough to match up against, and we have real limitations. We're not good enough to just show up and win. If we had to lose to somebody, I'm glad it was Craig. Maybe this will wake us up."

The Lions can count several heroes. Emily Moore hit four straight baseline jumpers in the first period to get them off to a 10-8 lead, then made a 15-footer as the buzzer sounded at the end of the third period. That completed the game's most important run, a 6-0 spurt by Howard that turned a 30-25 deficit into a 31-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Sharon Ford stepped up in the second half for 10 of her game-high 15 points. Mona Jackson scored only four, but she made the game-winner on a difficult follow-up hook shot with 43 seconds left. She also contributed three assists in the second half and played one of her best defensive games of the season.

Powell scored only two points, but once again she was the defensive catalyst. Moore's jumper at the end of the third period started with Powell, who chased down Erica McCauley to block a fast-break layup and start the break in the other direction.

The game ultimately came down to Howard's defense, which held the Vikings to their lowest output against the county on 33 percent shooting (15-for-45), almost 10 points below their season average. O'Connell decided to ditch his man-to-man alignment, and try a 2-3 zone with a wrinkle.

"We get killed in our man against them, because we don't switch well, and Hebron moves the ball around so well against our zone, so we had to try something different," he said. "We had our weak-side forward [Moore or Ford] come out and pressure the ball on the wings, and we rotated the way we were supposed to. Very seldom did they [Hebron] have time to get their shots off.

"Sooner or later, something good happens when you work hard, and no one works harder than my girls. Hard work alone isn't going to win you every game, but eventually it's going to win you a big one."

History aside, the victory meant much more to Howard than the loss meant to Hebron. The Vikings are still on course to win their 13th county title under Greenberg, and they are still headed for a third seed in the Class 2A, Region II playoffs, one seed behind Hammond.

Howard also is headed for its fourth straight Class 3A, Region III playoff appearance under O'Connell. Meanwhile, the Lions are the most unpredictable team in the county.

This is a team that looked terrible while losing to South Carroll andLinganore in December, then blew away South Carroll in a rematch just before Christmas. This is a team that, without Powell, nearly lost to last-place Centennial, then fell apart in the fourth quarter in losing to Oakland Mills, 51-44. A week later, the Lions upset Hebron.

Howard remains remarkably consistent in its gym, however. The Lions are 7-0 at home.

Home sweet home

The girls teams at Mount Hebron and Hammond are stingy on their home court. Hebron is 7-0 at home. Hammond's only defeat in eight home games was against Hebron last month.

Among the boys teams, Glenelg and Hammond lead the pack with 7-1 home records. Centennial is 7-2.

Going down to the wire

Oakland Mills' boys team, which has rebounded from an 0-start to win nine of its past 15, gives the fans their money's worth.

In their first 12 county games, the Scorpions won six times by a combined 22 points, an average victory margin of 3.7 points. Those included two victories in overtime.

Two of the Scorpions' five league losses have been down-to-the-wire affairs as well. Last month, they dropped a 53-50 decision to Centennial in overtime. Wednesday, they lost again to Centennial, 64-62.

Scholarship news

After Centennial volleyball star Shannon Saltzman made it official last week by signing a letter of intent to attend Maryland on a full scholarship, two more county stars signed letters to attend Towson State.

Atholton's Kelly Smith, a 6-foot setter/hitter who led the county in kills in the last two seasons, is headed to the Tigers. So is Saltzman's Centennial teammate, Laura Taneyhill, who shared All-County Player of the Year honors with Saltzman in The Baltimore Sun last fall and was a key contributor to the Eagles' state title drive.

Taneyhill, a 5-8 outside hitter, had 149 kills and a .976 serve percentage.

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