Nearly two months ago, Mt. Hebron traveled to Centennial with hopes of taking down the Eagles in an early-season matchup. Though the Vikings put up a fight, key personnel losses, and an inability to respond to a stout defense, helped the Eagles claim the victory.
Since then, Centennial has put together a quality season. After knocking off teams such as Howard, River Hill and Atholton, coach Bobby Macheel’s girls entered Saturday’s rematch with the Vikings as the county’s top team.
Using that first loss of the season as a motivator, Mt. Hebron made sure that reign atop the league standings alone was short-lived.
The Vikings (10-4, 11-5) relied on key performances from Megan Konig and Gabby Green, taking down Centennial, 55-38, in a game that is sure to change the Howard County championship climate going forward.
“We knew it was a close game last time. The girls were really pumped up (for this one),” said Mt. Hebron coach Tony Bell. “That’s our mindset. If you beat us once, you have to do it again.”
Konig led all scores in the game with 18 points, while teammate Green registered 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Between the two halves, Mt. Hebron picked up points from a number of different contributors. Through the first 16 minutes, the Vikings were constantly feeding the ball to Green, who employed a few wicked moves that gave the Eagles (12-2, 13-4) more trouble than they may have expected.
After halftime, the Eagles adjusted and put more emphasis on the talented sophomore center. Instead of forcing passes into tight coverage, the Vikings made a few changes as well, opting to pass to Konig and Shannon Kelliher (12 points) on the perimeter instead.
The two didn't waste the opportunity, knocking down shot after shot to combine for 20 points in the second half.
“I’m just so happy that we were working together and a team and really played Mt. Hebron basketball,” said Konig, who stressed hustle, confidence and heart as her team’s main strong suits.
Bell said that he was proud of the effort his girls exuded from the tipoff to the final whistle. The game plan was to always find the open target, and with Green’s lights out work in the paint changing the defensive makeup, the Vikings were able to respond and keep the pressure on. Though Konig has battled injuries all season, she didn’t show it in her shots Saturday night.
The Vikings were also loaded with a healthy Nia Crump, who missed the first matchup of the season with an injury. Her defensive presence was a crucial piece to the team’s success, according to Bell.
“Hebron came out and played a great game,” said Centennial coach Bobby Macheel. “We gave them a few open looks and they hit them. Credit to them.
“I think we could have defended a little better; and offensively, we went one-on-one way too much, instead of doing things we know we can do and sharing the ball.”
While the Eagles remain in the drivers seat for the county title, the loss opens the race to teams like Mt. Hebron that are getting hot at the right time.
The Howard County Women’s Athletics Hall of Fame inducted its newest members before the game, which brought a larger crowd than normal for the regular season.
Macheel said he could take a few positives from Saturday’s loss as well, noting that the atmosphere felt more like a postseason matchup. If his girls are to be ready for that type of environment, the coach said dropping one in the regular season could be a teachable moment.
“I told the girls that this was excellent preparation for the playoffs,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough atmosphere no matter where we play, and we have to get used to it. We’re in the same section (as Mt. Hebron), and we’ll probably see them again. We’ll be ready.”
Centennial's Anna Mitchell led her team with 13 points. Forward Kimmy Eads added 11 points and 13 rebounds for a double-double in the loss.
Her squad still pulled out the win, but Konig said her team’s shooting from the foul line was a cause for concern. In the first half, the Vikings went 0-for-8 from the line, keeping Centennial within two possessions.
For much of the second half, converting from the charity stripe wasn’t much better either. It wasn’t until the game’s closing minutes that shots finally started to drop for Konig’s team with the clock stopped.
“We just knew that the key to winning was making our foul shots,” she said. Following the 1:45 mark, the Vikings went 9-of-10 from the line, which helped cap off an 11-0 run to end the game.
“We knew we could do this if we just played with discipline and went with our game plan,” said Bell. “I’m so proud of these hardworking ladies.”
Mt. Hebron 55, Centennial 38
MH: Megan Konig 18, Gabby Green 15, Shannon Kelliher 12, Nia Crump 4, Tianna Wallpher 4, Meghan Doherty 2.
Cen: Anna Mitchell 13, Kimmy Eads 11, Brittany Anderson 8, Alicia Hsieh 4, Sara Downing 2.
Half: 20-15, Vikings.