Even though Mother Nature forced a squeeze play in this week's league schedule, few questions remain in the races for the Howard County girls title and regional playoff berths.
Hammond, which assumed the No. 1 ranking today after beating then top-ranked Western, 61-60, in last week's Fuel Fund Classic, appears headed for its first Howard County championship.
The Bears (16-1 overall, 10-0 league) also have a lock on the top-seeded spot in the Class 2A South region. As for the rest of the local teams, only Centennial mathematically has been eliminated from the regional playoffs although Atholton would need a lot of help to make it.
In the county race, the Bears could end up edging four-time defending champ and No. 6 Mount Hebron (12-6, 9-1) by one game. Make that one game that never was played.
Because of the scheduling crunch, the Bears and the Vikings cannot make up their second regular-season game. A state rule prohibits more than three games in a single week, and since both teams played in the Fuel Fund Classic, no time remained to reschedule before the regional playoffs begin Monday.
Needless to say, the Vikings are not happy about losing that game, because they could lose their chance to tie for the county title.
"I'm really upset as a senior," said the Vikings' Emily Yanero. "Personally, I'd love to play Hammond, because it's my last chance. It's hard to believe they won't make an exception for something like [the Fuel Fund game], because it's for a good cause."
On the other hand, the Bears want to play the game too.
"I'm kind of upset we're not playing Mount Hebron," said Hammond's Kacy Williams. "It feels like we're kind of snitching it from them."
The Vikings, however, easily will advance to the Class 3A East regional playoffs. Although they now sit in the third-seeded spot behind Poly and Broadneck, they could move up to second. For the switch to happen, the Vikings would have to win their remaining games against Centennial, Wilde Lake and Glenelg while Broadneck would have to lose two of its last three games.
Behind the top three, City is seeded fourth with Carver fifth and Howard sixth. The Lions (9-10, 5-6) are one point behind Carver and might pull into fifth with a couple of wins over its last three opponents, Hammond, Atholton and Wilde Lake.
Centennial (2-17, 0-11) has no chance to pull into the top six.
In Class 2A behind Hammond, Glenelg (14-5, 7-4) has the second-seeded spot sewed up. Oakland Mills (9-8, 6-5) stands third with Chopticon and Fairmont Heights in a tie for fourth. Potomac is sixth.
Atholton (6-13, 2-9) needs Potomac to lose all of its remaining games, if the Raiders are to have any chance of sneaking into the sixth and final spot. At the same time, the Raiders need a couple of wins in their final stretch against Wilde Lake, Howard and Oakland Mills.
In the Class 1A South region, Wilde Lake (8-10, 4-7) should remain in fourth behind Catoctin, Central and Brunswick. Even if they drop to fifth, the Wildecats should end up with the same first-round opponent -- Poolesville, a team they beat, 51-15, early the season. Smithsburg stands sixth.