Sydney Biniak

Howard's Sydney Biniak, right, goes up for a shot during the girls basketball game against visiting Reservoir. The Lions top the first edition of this season's power rankings. (Jen Rynda / December 22, 2013)

The first few weeks of the Howard County girls basketball season have concluded, and with them, fans of the sport are sure of one thing: Nobody is safe.

Though the Howard Lions are the early favorite to take the county after starting the season undefeated, a close game against Reservoir exposed some holes down the stretch. Following Howard in the standings, the few spots could be anyone’s for the taking.

The parity exhibited throughout the early portion of the winter has created a rollercoaster of wins and losses that could be hard to understand.

Howard beat Reservoir, which also collected wins against Mt. Hebron and Centennial. The Eagles defeated the Vikings, who also beat River Hill. The Hawks lost a heartbreaker to Centennial, but also handed Reservoir its first loss of the year. Don’t forget about all that snow that threw a giant wrench into the mix as well.

Still with me?

This week, teams not only get a break from school, but also from the court as well. With some gearing up for holiday tournaments, other teams will focus on the task at hand, opting for some much-needed practice time instead.

Feel free to tweet @MattOwings with questions/comments/concerns regarding the power rankings. Here's how I see the county so far.

1. Howard (6-0 county)

It’s hard to pick against the county’s only undefeated team when the Lions have already racked up a few impressive wins this season. Opening the winter on the road with a win over state runner-up River Hill was big, but taking down a very talented Reservoir team was equally as important.

Though the Lions are chewing up every team that comes their way, they aren’t doing it behind any one player in particular. Jayda Gilmore, Sydney Biniak and Berit Batterton have all contributed double-figure games on multiple occasions this year. With impressive guard play from Anne Kinsey and co. keeping the tempo in check for Howard, it will be interesting to see when (or if) they will fall.

Next two county games: at Wilde Lake (Jan. 3), vs. Mt. Hebron (Jan. 8)

2. Reservoir (4-2 county)

Every team that has Reservoir on its schedule is concerned with one player in particular: Zelor Massaquoi. The forward finished this week with three double-doubles, solidifying herself as one of the early favorites for Player of the Year honors.

After starting the season 2-0, Reservoir ran into the buzz saw that was a reeling River Hill team bound to eventually capture its first win. An unfortunate early season schedule then forced the Gators to head to Howard, where they lost again. The turning point was Tuesday’s double-overtime win against visiting Mt. Hebron.

It looks like the Gators have finally hit their stride, and if Massaquoi (18.5 ppg) continues her consecutive double-double streak, beating this squad will be a tall order.

Next two county games: at Oakland Mills (Jan. 3), vs. Glenelg (Jan. 6)

3. Centennial (5-1 county, 5-2 overall)

The Eagles won only seven games in county play all last season. This winter, coach Bobby Macheel’s squad is playing up to its competition and making some serious waves. With only one blemish on their record (a loss to Reservoir), the Eagles have played very sound basketball.

With key wins over Mt. Hebron and River Hill in its first six county games, it’s clear that Centennial is a much improved team from last year. Some names to keep an eye on include forward Anna Mitchell and guard Sara Downing. Mitchell is averaging 12 points per game, while Downing averages just fewer than 10.

Next two county games: vs. Long Reach (Jan. 3), at Glenelg (Jan. 8)

4. Mt. Hebron (4-2 county)

The Vikings’ only two losses came to teams within the top-top five of these rankings. If a few baskets or turnovers went their way Tuesday against Reservoir, coach Tony Bell’s squad could easily be higher on the list. Still, don’t sleep on this team as the season moves forward.

After suffering a possible concussion, forward Nia Crump has returned to the Vikings roster in a big way. Her two free throws at the end of regulation against the Gators forced the first overtime.

The next two county games will be a good test for Mt. Hebron, as some prolific scorers will take on the Vikings. Keep an eye on Megan Konig as well. Her 20-point game against the Gators — including multiple 3-pointers at crucial moments in the game — put her stellar play on the map against a very talented team.

Next two county games: at Atholton (Jan. 3), at Wilde Lake (Jan. 6)

5. Atholton (4-2 county)

One of the pleasant surprises this season so far has been the play of the Atholton Raiders. Solid players like Margaret Tatum, Chelsea Mitchell and Kalere Caldwell have kept this team in most every match-up. The supporting cast has stepped up when needed as well, and with a few of the county’s heavyweights on the horizon, Atholton has a chance to prove that it is indeed for real.

Next two county games: vs. Mt. Hebron (Jan. 3), at River Hill (Jan. 6)

Teams on the rise:

Glenelg (4-2 county)

The Gladiators started the season 3-0 before dropping two games to Howard and Atholton. Ally Forejt and Olivia Nowlin are both contributing to a successful offensive attack. According to coach Chris Beil, the two feed off each other offensively.

Next two county games: vs. River Hill (Jan. 3), at Reservoir (Jan. 6)

River Hill (3-3 county)

After starting off 0-3, the Hawks nabbed key victories against Reservoir, Long Reach and Hammond to pull even in county play. The Collins twins are still putting up consistent numbers, but the Hawks will need more out of their supporting players if they are going to have a chance of getting back to the state title game.

Next two county games: at Glenelg (Jan. 3), vs. Atholton (Jan. 6)

Oakland Mills (2-4 county)

A team that started off the season with some tough losses, the Scorpions have come on strong as of late. Back-to-back wins against Long Reach and Marriotts Ridge showcased some of the talent that coach Christina Hewitt’s roster has to offer. Look out for players like Karigan Awkward, Lauren Thompson and Diamond Lee to be difference-makers down the stretch.

Next two county games: vs. Reservoir (Jan. 3), at Hammond (Jan. 6) 

Teams on the bubble:

Wilde Lake (2-4 county)

Long Reach (2-4 county, 3-4 overall)

Hammond (0-6 county, 1-6 overall)

Marriotts Ridge (0-6 county, 0-7 overall)