It's not surprising that the Wilde Lake and Centennial girls basketball teams, which shared the Howard County title a year ago, are unbeaten after four county games.
What is a little surprising is that River Hill, which won just four county games in its inaugural season last year, is right with them.
"Their maturity and confidence have really increased [from last year] and that's made a big difference," said River Hill coach Karen Saunderson, whose 10-player squad has seven members back from last year.
One player who did not return from last year's team was Lauren Martin, who led the county in scoring (23.8 avg.) and three-point shots (57). When Martin left the tech-magnet program at River Hill and returned to Glenelg, her home school, she left a big void offensively. But the Hawks (5-3 overall) have responded with a solid team effort.
"A well-rounded team is harder to beat than a team with one offensive threat," said Saunderson.
"Last year we gave Lauren the ball because we thought she was the only one that could shoot," said River Hill senior guard Sara Marrie, who held Martin to a season-low three points in the Hawks' 45-39 win over Glenelg last month. "This year we had to do it ourselves as a team. The scoring is spread out, and that's what our coach wants us to do."
"Everyone is contributing," said junior center Cristin Etheridge. "You can't double up one person."
Senior forward Caitlin Bair has started strong, leading the team in scoring (14.7) rebounding (13.4) and steals (7.8). Her intensity and desire to win also have inspired her teammates to play better.
"Caitlin has definitely stepped up this year," said Marrie. "She's really been a big help to us."
Another key has been the addition of freshman point guard Greeba Outen, who is averaging 11 points and three assists. Etheridge is averaging 8.7 points and nine rebounds and sophomore forward Lisa Humphrey 6.3 points and five rebounds.
The Hawks, who defeated Long Reach and Mount Hebron twice last season, have beaten Howard, Long Reach, Glenelg and Oakland Mills this year. Now comes their biggest test so far this season -- they play at No. 6-ranked Wilde Lake on Wednesday.
"It's an important game, but there's a long way to go in the season," said Saunderson, whose team plays host to No. 9 Centennial on Jan. 14.
Saunderson said reaching last year's Class 1A South region semifinals started this year's team on a positive note. She added that the girls practice hard and are stronger as a unit.
L Etheridge agreed. "Our chemistry is a lot better this year."
Here are current girls basketball standings (league, overall): Wilde Lake 4-0, 6-2; Centennial 4-0, 6-2; River Hill 4-0, 5-3; Mount Hebron 2-2, 6-2; Glenelg 2-2, 4-3; Hammond 2-2, 3-3; Oakland Mills 1-3, 4-4; Howard 1-3, 4-4; Atholton 0-4, 2-6, Long Reach 0-4, 1-7.
Alisha Mosley, Howard County's 1996 girls basketball Player of the Year, returns to the area this afternoon when her Wake Forest team visits Maryland at 2 o'clock.
Mosley started the first 10 games for the Demon Deacons, but has come off the bench the last three as she battles her way out of a shooting slump. Mosley, a shooting guard, is averaging 7.6 points and 3.3 rebounds and leads the team in assists (2.3 per game) and steals (1.7).
Mosley made a game-winning shot for the Deacons (4-9 overall, 0-3 ACC) in November when her 15-footer gave them a 70-68 decision over Appalachian State.
Howard and River Hill are the only unbeaten teams in the Howard Conference of the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League.
Howard has outscored its opponents, 35-12, in going 4-0. River Hill is 3-0 and has allowed a single goal in each game while scoring a total of 22.
Howard, which won last year's Howard County Cup, and River Hill meet Jan. 19 at 1: 30 p.m. at The Gardens Ice House in Laurel. Each team has one game before then -- Howard plays Wilde Lake on Wednesday and River Hill takes on Oakland Mills on Jan. 14.
Here are the current Howard Conference standings: Howard 4-0, River Hill 3-0, Oakland Mills 2-2, Mount Hebron 1-2, Centennial 1-2, Glenelg 1-3, Wilde Lake 1-3, Atholton 1-3.
Pub Date: 1/04/98