When Matt Rankin took over as Edgewood's girls basketball coach last November, the outlook wasn't promising.
"The team we started out with this year was a lot different than I Coach of the Year
had expected," said Rankin, an assistant coach with last year's team. "My No. 1 player had a bad knee and I lost three girls to work and one to cheerleading."
But Rankin, a 24-year-old math teacher at Edgewood High, quickly turned the Rams into contenders for the county title. The Baltimore Sun's Harford County Girls Basketball Coach of the Year, Rankin turned the Rams into a team-oriented squad with a balanced offense and an ever-improving defense.
Right up to the last week of the season the Rams were still in the running for a share of the county championship.
A 41-40 victory over then league-leading C. Milton Wright in early February kept the Rams within striking distance. Only the Rams' final-week loss to Fallston sorted out the top three with the Rams falling into third place behind Fallston and second-place C. Milton Wright.
Still, that was the Rams' best finish in recent years. After going 4-18 two years ago and 12-10 last year, the Rams jumped to 15-9 under Rankin's guidance.
The turning point came with a loss to the host team in the Poly Invitational Tournament just after Christmas, said Rankin, who gives much of the credit for his success to assistant coach Dawn Healey.
"When we played Poly, we were helter-skelter. We were out of control the whole game. If we had played that game differently, we could have won. I told the ladies the whole game, 'You've got to get it back under control,' " he said.
And they did. After the Poly tournament, the Rams' record stood at 4-3, but they won 10 of their next 13.
A native of Dunbar, Pa., near Pittsburgh, Rankin plans to stick around for a while. With only two starters graduating, Rankin should have the Rams contending again next year.