With the Howard County boys basketball season under way and already delivering some thrilling finishes, it seems like the perfect time to try to sort everything out with the first edition of this winter’s power rankings.
This column will traditionally roll out on Sunday evenings, as a preview of the week ahead. However, with snow blanketing the area early this week and postponing games, this can serve as a special kickoff edition.
There will undoubtedly be a ton of movement, up and down the rankings, for the majority of the county’s teams throughout the season. This column is merely a fun way to keep tabs on the teams and how they stack up against their peers. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert, but as the boys basketball beat reporter for the Howard County Times I do get the privilege of getting out and seeing all of the county’s teams several times throughout the season.
As always, feel free to tweet at me @BKHoCoSports with comments and/or questions about the rankings.
* Previous week rankings are in ()
1. (NA) Oakland Mills (1-0 county, 2-0 overall)
The Scorpions are the defending county champs and have looked every bit like the favorite again in the early going with a pair of double-digit victories over Wilde Lake and Digital Harbor. Laurel transfer Mamadou Ndiaye has been even better than advertised, posting two straight games with 23 or more points and delivering nearly a dozen highlight reel dunks along the way. The faster the game is, the more it suits Oakland Mills.
Last game: Beat Digital Harbor, 74-63. Next game: Home vs Glenelg on Wednesday
2. (NA) Reservoir (1-0 county, 1-0 overall)
The Gators picked up an impressive road victory to open the season at Marriotts Ridge despite trailing the majority of the way. In the end, the team’s experience prevailed. Depth again will be a huge asset, with five guys already scoring nine points or more in that victory over the Mustangs. Everyone knows about Kyle Reilly, Aaron McDonald and Seth Henry, but the real surprise was how good newcomer Joe Kearney and point guard Kevin Mayers looked. Both guys can hit the three and spread defenses out, something Reservoir does as well as anyone.
Last game: Beat Marriotts Ridge, 61-56. Next game: Home vs Wilde Lake on Wednesday.
3. (NA) Glenelg (1-0 county, 2-0 overall)
After what coach Jansen McMillan called a sloppy performance in a win over Friends, the Gladiators were back to clicking on all cylinders in Friday’s 34-point victory over Hammond. The team’s top four — Daine Vandewall, Nick Oates, Dom Napolitano and Matt Hammert — all reached double figures. Three-point shooting is Glenelg’s specialty, already hitting a combined 13 from beyond the arc through two games. The next two games, against Oakland Mills and Marriotts Ridge, will tell a lot.
Last game: Beat Hammond, 80-46. Next game: At Oakland Mills on Wednesday.
4. (NA). River Hill (1-0 county, 1-0 overall)
The Hawks forced Howard to play at their pace in the opener for both teams, with a patient, half-court style of game leading to an eight-point River Hill victory. Up by 14 at the half, 27-13, the Hawks were in control the majority of the way. Charlie Thomas, who is widely considered the best big man in the county, opened up with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Deion Richardson was also a pleasant surprise with 10 points.
Last game: Beat Howard, 53-45. Next game: Home vs Mt. Hebron on Wednesday.
5. (NR) Marriotts Ridge (0-1 county, 1-1 overall)
Don’t be fooled by the Mustangs loss to open county play, this is a team that is going to win a lot of games this winter. Point guard Robert Davis is poised for what could be a truly special senior season, already posting games of 20 and 35 points to open the year. Marriotts Ridge was in the lead for the majority of its game against Reservoir, before falling a couple possessions short down the stretch. Rebounding will be the “X” factor all season, but Greg Speelman and Markquice Stringfellow both have potential in that area.
Last game: Lost to Reservoir, 61-56; Next game: Home vs Centennial on Wednesday.
6. (NR) Centennial (1-0 county, 1-0 overall)
The Eagles participated in an instant classic on opening night, outlasting Atholton in double overtime for a three-point victory. Isaiah White, a junior who spent last season on JV, announced himself as a budding star with 23 points. With him, along with seniors Chase Conley and Walter Fletcher, Centennial has a trio of guys capable of averaging in double figures. Throw in the up-and-coming sophomore Tom Brown inside to go with shutdown defender Chad Strothers, and you have the makings of a very dangerous Eagles’ team.
Last game: Beat Atholton, 59-56 in 2OT. Next game: At Marriotts Ridge on Wednesday.
7. (NR) Mt. Hebron (1-0 county, 2-0 overall)
The Vikings are turning heads right out of the gates this winter, picking up an impressive 10-point victory over North County and then a buzzer-beating win over Long Reach. This is a very disciplined group of guys that runs their stuff and has one of the area’s best shooters in junior Mark Smith. Smith went for 20 points in the opener and 17 against the Lightning. With David Herlihy making huge strides in the post, don’t be surprised if Mt. Hebron is this year’s sleeper team.
Last game: Beat Long Reach, 43-42. Next game: At River Hill on Wednesday.
8. (NR) Atholton (0-1 county, 0-1 overall)
The Raiders lost an absolute heartbreaker against Centennial, especially when you consider that they never trailed at any point in the second half. But there were plenty of good things from that game that Atholton can build on. The combination of Justin Ballmer and Michael Bernetti is going to be extremely good all year, with both guys showcasing the ability to score on the perimeter and in the paint. New sophomore point guard Brandon Willis is going to be a great catalyst as well. The schedule sets up well with three straight home games following one more on the road against Long Reach.
Last game: Lost to Centennial, 59-56 in 2OT. Next game: At Long Reach on Wednesday.
On the bubble: Wilde Lake (0-1, 0-1), Howard (0-1, 0-1), Long Reach (0-1, 1-1) and Hammond (0-1, 1-1).