Hammond guards Kacy Williams and Sonia Keiner have been friends since kindergarten. It almost seems they've been waiting that long to beat Mount Hebron in a regular-season game.
Yesterday, the two seniors combined for 25 points to lead the No. 2 Golden Bears to a 49-34 victory over No. 6 Mount Hebron in a Howard County league girls basketball game.
Although the Bears (6-1, 2-0) had beaten Mount Hebron in the Class 2A regional playoffs each of the past two years, they had lost both regular-season meetings -- and the county title -- each year to Mount Hebron. The Vikings (4-5, 1-1) have won 13 of the past 15 county titles.
This time, the Bears were determined to break that in-county stranglehold.
"We said we wanted to win a county championship before we left high school," said Keiner. "We've won regionals and states before, but we've never won a county championship, so that's a big goal for us."
With yesterday's victory, the Bears appear well on their way.
Keiner led the team with 14 points and Williams added 11, but it was not the offense that overwhelmed Mount Hebron. Hammond's swarming pressure defense forced 32 turnovers and limited the Vikings to 35 shots.
The Vikings wanted to slow down the game, which they managed to do initially. But once the Bears started to run, the momentum never swung back to Mount Hebron.
Early on, the Vikings succeeded in going inside to strong center Rachel Cimmier. The 6-foot-2 senior scored eight of her game-high 16 points in the first quarter.
Although Mount Hebron never led, Cimmier's inside game kept the Vikings close until Hammond kicked in its running game.
Williams set the tone for the second quarter by stealing the Vikings' inbounds pass. The Bears' sticky defense then sparked a 10-2 run that gave Hammond a 25-13 lead midway through the quarter.
The Vikings scored only two baskets in the quarter -- one on a long pass when Hammond thought the official had called timeout. Mount Hebron never got closer than 12 the rest of the way.
"I think part of it was their defense," said Vikings coach Dave Greenberg. "But part of it was us just not mentally executing. We did want to get the ball inside no doubt, but to get the ball inside, we've got to execute. If we get the ball inside, we'll get better shots outside, but we struggled."
Hammond forward Kellye Townsend (six points, eight rebounds) played a tremendous defensive game inside. After the first quarter, the 5-10 sophomore did an impressive job in a physical battle with Cimmier, who also had 15 rebounds.
"We wanted to hold Emily Yanero and Rachel Cimmier together under 27 points and they got 26," said Williams. "The big girl hurt us in the beginning but we immobilized her a lot. We worked on that in practice, getting in front of her, because we knew she could play."
The Bears, who also out-rebounded the Vikings, continue to show a balanced offense, although they would like to improve on yesterday's 34 percent shooting from the field. Forward Tameka Harrison and 6-1 freshman sixth man Rene Hines added seven points each.