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Howard County boys basketball Week 4 power rankings

Between winter break and snow postponing games on Friday, it has been a slow couple of weeks for the county’s basketball teams. No one has played more than three times since Dec. 19 and some teams have had lay-offs of nine days since their Christmas tournaments.

The good news is that the action is about to pick up with what promises to be one of the most critical five-day stretches of the entire season.

Barring any further weather complications, there are league games on tap for every day but Thursday. And, for a little extra intrigue, there are five games between the top four teams in these rankings during that stretch.

For the fourth consecutive edition of these rankings, Oakland Mills is in the first spot. The Scorpions suffered a setback against Bowie in their own holiday tournament, but the overall body of work is still too impressive to knock them off the top line.

The rest of the list has undergone a bit of a shake-up, including a couple of teams making their debuts.

As always, feel free to tweet at me @BKHoCoSports with comments and/or questions about the rankings.

* Previous week rankings are in ()

1. (1) Oakland Mills (5-0 county, 7-1 overall)

Edgewood ran into an angry Scorpions team in the consolation game of the Oakland Mills Holiday Tournament just one day after Bowie had spoiled the host team’s undefeated season. Oakland Mills proceeded to become the first county team this year to hit 100 points in a 29-point victory. In truth, the loss to Bowie may end up being a good thing as it gives this team a taste of losing and eliminates the pressure of trying to go undefeated. Offensively, the Scorpions are still the league’s top team — boasting six guys right now averaging at least 9 points a game.

Last game: Beat Edgewood, 100-71. Next game: Home vs Hammond on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

2 (3) Atholton (5-1 county, 6-2 overall)

The Raiders move up a spot based on a fantastic showing at the Old Mill tournament, where they defeated host Old Mill and took Prince George’s County powerhouse Eleanor Roosevelt down to the final seconds in a two-point loss. Michael Bernetti has become a legitimate star, using a 39-point effort against Old Mill to boost his season scoring average up to 19.3 ppg now. He’s scored in double figures every time out. He, Justin Ballmer (11.5 ppg) and Brandon Willis (10.3 ppg) are a terrific trio. The Raiders have four games this week and three are against teams with county records of 4-2 or better. Atholton is for real, but this week will tell everyone if they are county title contenders.

Last game: Lost to Eleanor Roosevelt, 71-69. Next game: Home vs River Hill on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

3. (2) River Hill (7-0 county, 7-2 overall)

After a rough couple games at the Old Mill Holiday Tournament — where the team lost its first two games of the year — the Hawks were in need of a bounce back and that’s exactly what they did against Glenelg. The 20-point win was a dominant effort from start to finish and has River Hill re-energized heading into back-to-back games against Atholton and Oakland Mills. Charlie Thomas (21.6 ppg) continues to dominate, but keep an eye on Mike Titus who is coming on strong with an average of 15 points per game over his last five games. Included in there was a career-high 27 points against Old Mill.

Last game: Beat Glenelg, 71-51. Next game: At Atholton on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

4. (4) Mt. Hebron (4-2 county, 6-3 overall)

Splitting games at the Northeast Holiday tournament won’t be held against the Vikings, who have a couple big match-ups of their own on tap for this week against Atholton and Oakland Mills. The key, like it has been all season, is tempo and discipline. Mt. Hebron isn’t the most athletic team in the area, but it more than makes up for it with toughness and the ability to run its half-court packages extremely well.

Last game: Lost to Huntington, 44-37. Next game: Home vs Wilde Lake on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

5. (6) Centennial (3-3 county, 5-3 overall)

The Eagles were hurting entering the break, having lost back-to-back games. But at the Liberty Holiday Tournament, Centennial got things going again with victories over Friendly and St. Mary’s to capture the championship. Isaiah White was named tournament MVP as he extended his string of scoring 13 points or more to eight straight games. He’s only a junior and the combination of him and sophomore Tom Brown (14.1 ppg) give the Eagles two of the best underclassmen in the league. All three of the team’s games this week are against squads with losing records.

Last game: Beat St. Mary’s, 61-45. Next game: At Howard on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

6. (5) Reservoir (4-2 county, 4-4 overall)

The Gators are a bit of an enigma so far. They have the talent and the depth to be one of the area’s most explosive offensive teams, as displayed by three victories where they put up 75 or more points. But the flip side has been just as eye-opening, with the team failing to score more than 53 points in any of its four losses. The Laurel tournament saw the team meet up with a couple of good teams — McKinley Tech and Suitland — and fail to score more than 44 points either time out. There’s still plenty of time to put it all together, though, and Reservoir will hope to build some momentum heading into a Friday match-up against Atholton at the end of this week.

Last game: Lost to Suitland, 52-44. Next game: At Glenelg on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

7. (NR) Hammond (2-5 county, 4-6 overall)

The Golden Bears make the jump into the rankings for the first time while riding a two-game winning streak. After going winless last season, this is obviously a different team that is benefitting from a strong senior class. Hammond guard Andre McFadden is very quietly establishing himself as one of the county’s top scorers. His 18.7 ppg average currently has him among the top five in the county and he went for a team-high 25 points in the win over Marriotts Ridge on Saturday. When gauging the strength of this group,,it’s important to remember that the team played five straight games without impact forwards Dontae Ross (14.6 ppg) and Dashawn Taylor during December.

Last game: Beat Marriotts Ridge, 69-62. Next game: At Oakland Mills on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

8 (NR) Long Reach (1-5 county, 4-5 overall)

The Lightning are making their rankings debut as well, riding high after capturing the tournament championship at the Paint Branch Holiday Tournament. The team picked up impressive wins — each by three points or less — against Paint Branch and Bethesda-Chevy Chase in the two-day event. Shane Barr has emerged as the team’s leader, scoring in double figures in eight straight games. He’s averaging a team-best 16.4 points every time out. Just as important, though, have been the contributions from underclassmen Ron Carter, Kevin Duckett and Terrell Lamar. All three of those guys are averaging more than seven points a game.

Last game: Beat B-CC, 49-48. Next game: Home vs Marriotts Ridge on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

On the bubble: Marriotts Ridge (2-4, 4-5), Howard (2-5, 3-6), Glenelg (2-5, 4-6), Wilde Lake (1-6, 2-7).

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