The early returns are in for Carroll County boys basketball teams and there are no real surprises.
Westminster, South Carroll, North Carroll and Liberty have combined for a 9-37 record.
Before last night's games, North Carroll was 3-9 and had the second-best record in the county. Only Francis Scott Key (6-5) was better.
"That is kind of scary," said North Carroll coach Troy Warehime when reminded that his team was second with three wins.
Westminster and South Carroll were both 2-9 and Liberty was 2-10.
The unfortunate thing for county boys basketball is that the best team, Francis Scott Key, can not compete for the county championship because it is locked into an 18-game schedule against Monocacy Valley Athletic League teams.
Key still deserves the tag as the top team in Carroll even though it was stunned by North Carroll, 67-64, in the opening round of the Panthers Christmas tournament. That loss was part of a five-game losing streak for the Eagles after they opened with a 4-0 run.
Key has recovered to win two straight to climb back over .500. The Eagles had trounced North Carroll by 44 points at Key Dec. 9 before the three-point loss at North Carroll.
Without Key in the picture, there isn't a lot of reason to get too excited about the county championship race. But as Westminster coach Dave Byers said: "A little bit of bragging rights is involved here."
As the four teams began fighting it out this week, the feeling among county coaches was that it is a wide-open race.
But like in any league race, there is always at least one team that has to be considered a favorite.
Right now that team looks like Westminster.
The Owls are 2-2 in 1995 after going 0-7 in 1994 and they are starting to show some consistency at both ends of the floor.
Last Friday night in a 49-45 victory over Linganore, the Owls' offense began to perk up.
Byers said his team suddenly began to shoot better and showed a much-improved shot selection.
Steve Mays has been consistent all season at shooting guard for the Owls, center Mark Loscomb and forward Justin Sholkoff have come on strong in recent games, guard Chad Brown has improved a lot, and sophomore Steve Flora has been an outstanding addition since being called up from the junior varsity.
"We realized long ago we would be in a lot of trouble this season if we tried to outscore teams," said Byers. "So we make other teams work hard on defense with a patient offense and at the other end of the floor we try not to give up anything cheap."
If South Carroll is to take the championship away from Westminster, the Cavaliers will need point guard Greg Mihalko to continue to play the way he did two weeks ago in a 52-43 win over Linganore.
South Carroll desperately needs some offense out of Mihalko to take some of the scoring pressure off 6-foot-4 center Matt McGrane, who had 23 in the Linganore game.
McGrane has come through with the kind of scoring coach Jim Carnes had hoped for. But there just hasn't been enough point production from the other players.
Forward Matt deWitt, guard John Eaton and forward Bryce Baker have shown some signs of offensive life but not enough to help the Cavs beat the good teams.
North Carroll had to be considered a contender for the title after the Panthers put it all together for the three-point win over Key.
Junior forward Jason Gelb (15.5 points a game) is the top offensive gun. He scored 22 in the win over Key.
The other juniors who have come through in certain games for North Carroll are Scott Hensley, Barrett Gugliotta, Ryan Bowles and Roger Bauer. The senior starter is Jason Glover.
Liberty might be the most inconsistent team, with players such as guard James Lee capable of scoring 20 one night and four the next.
Lee was out of action with the flu Friday night when the Lions were beaten by Thomas Johnson, 74-33, at Liberty. That lopsided loss didn't put coach Scott Kohr in a good mood entering tonight's county opener against North Carroll on the road.
TC "Thomas Johnson is a machine," said Kohr. "Frederick has a great middle-school feeder system. We're just trying to get the best players in school on the floor for us."