For the players and coaches on the Mount Hebron girls basketball team, tomorrow's game at Centennial is just another game.
Or so they say.
"Yesterday we prepared for Hammond, tomorrow we'll prepare for Centennial," said Mount Hebron coach Scott Robinson after his team's 54-34 victory Friday night at Hammond. "We play Centennial twice during the season, and we treat them like any other opponent we're going to face."
Any other opponent?
The school that has beaten Robinson and his Vikings nine straight times, including three in the playoffs.
"We just want to play as hard as we can," said Vikings senior Annie Collins, a four-year starter. "We definitely think we can contend for the county title, and we're not overlooking any team."
Mount Hebron had fourth-quarter leads in all three games last season against Centennial. In their first meeting, the Vikings led 39-36 with 1: 45 left, only to watch Centennial score the last nine points for a 45-39 win. In the second game, Centennial, trailing 53-46 with 3: 03 to play, again scored the final nine points for a 55-53 victory.
In last season's playoff game, Mount Hebron rallied to take a 24-23 lead with 5: 43 remaining in the final quarter before losing, 37-28.
"They were tough losses," Robinson said.
Added Collins: "They were very emotional."
The eighth-ranked Vikings (4-0 overall, 2-0 league) appear to have the advantage this season. Last Wednesday, Hammond went to Centennial and upset the Eagles, 49-40. Two days later, the visiting Vikings limited Hammond to four second-half baskets in their 20-point victory.
"I think we're working well together as a team, and to beat Centennial we'll have to keep doing that," Vikings senior Lauren Kickham said.
Robinson, in his fourth season, has done an excellent job turning the program around. The Vikings, led by Erin Jaschik, Collins, Kickham and Tiffaney Randle, are solid. They're aggressive defensively, and smart and patient on offense.
"It's been a goal since I was a freshman to beat Centennial," Jaschik said. "This year I think we're going to make it over the hump."
Centennial, led by Ashley Evans and sisters Darlena and Jasmine Hammond, rebounded from Wednesday's loss with a 55-40 win over Long Reach on Friday night.
Another game tomorrow featuring community rivals is fifth-ranked River Hill (5-0, 3-0) at 18th-ranked Glenelg (4-1, 3-0). The Hawks, led by Greeba Outen-Barlow and Keiko Miller-Tate, are coming off a 61-46 win over visiting Wilde Lake on Friday night. Glenelg, led by Stephanie Howell and Heather Young, beat host Howard, 59-33.
River Hill's biggest advantage against the Gladiators will be height. Miller-Tate is 6 feet 2, Megan Buescher is 6-0, Rosanna Drake is 5-11, and Outen-Barlow is 5-10.
"That will be the most difficult thing for us to overcome," said Glenelg coach Ciaran Lesikar said. "We're going to need to play smart, box out and go after the ball."
Glenelg's aggressive press generates much of its offense. Howell is averaging 22 points in the last past three games.
Oakland Mills won the boys division and tied for first with Long Reach in the girls division at the second county indoor meet of the season last Thursday at the Fifth Regiment Armory.
The Scorpions' boys captured seven of 13 events. Nick Fambro won the 55 hurdles (8.0) and shot put (47 feet), Kyle Farmer took the 300 (37.3), Jeff Johnson the 55 dash (6.7) and John Brunache the 500 (1: 13.1). Oakland Mills also won two relays, the 3,200 (Jeremy Catlin, Gordon Rusinko, Alex Bailey, Carl Haymon) and the 800 (Nes Spence, Gavin Holcomb, Johnson, Paul Phillips).
River Hill earned three firsts -- Steve Chu in the 1,600 (4: 37.3), Mike Styczynski in the 3,200 (10: 01.5) and Mike Fleg in the 800 (2: 13.5). Centennial's Randy Van Allen took the high jump (5-8), Howard's Justin Ferguson captured the pole vault (11-6) and Hammond earned the 1,600 relay.
In the girls division, Long Reach and Oakland Mills each had four firsts. Teyarnte Cater won the 300 (43.5) and 55 dash (7.0) and Cynthia Nicholls took the 55 hurdles (8.7) and high jump (5-2). Oakland Mills' Danielle Stoddart won the 500 (1: 22.1) and 800 (2: 33.9), and the Scorpions took two relays -- the 1,600 (Deanna Jones, Reesa Phillips, Elena Hekimiam, Sade Smith) and 800 (Phillips, Hekimiam, Rachel Clinton, Smith).
Mount Hebron's 3,200 relay team (Leigh Langmead, Marguerite Adams, Katie Mason, Faye Goddard) took first, and Goddard also won the 3,200 (12: 25.0). Glenelg's Lauren Koutrelakos won the pole vault (8-0), and Hammond's Corey McGrail took the shot put (31-5 1/4).
Off to college
Howard's Amy Rappaport, a sweeper, has orally committed to a soccer scholarship from Virginia Tech. She will join former Hammond standout Emily Bielefeld, now a junior, on the soccer team.
Mount Hebron lacrosse player Katie Zabel has orally committed to Brown University. A defensive midfielder, Zabel contributed 12 goals, eight assists and had 71 ground balls in her first varsity season last year.