Howard

Howard's bench cheers for their team during the girls basketball game against Centennial. (Jen Rynda / February 11, 2014)

It’s finally here. The last week of regular season county play is upon us. While coaches are prepping for the playoffs and players are gearing up for a final push, there is still much to determine when it comes to a girls basketball county championship.

The weather threw a wrench into things last week, but there was still enough excitement to shake up the race.

With a crucial win against Centennial under its belt, Howard now controls its own destiny, though a few hopefuls are still holding on. If the Lions collect three more victories to finish the season, Scott Robinson’s team will secure a league title.

Mt. Hebron is this week’s biggest mover, while Reservoir continues its slide after losing for the second time in three games.

As always, tweet at girls basketball beat reporter Matt Owings (@MattOwings) with comments and/or questions about the rankings.

*Previous week rankings are in ()

ON THE BUBBLE: Oakland Mills (5-11 county, 6-12 overall), Long Reach (5-12, 7-13), Hammond (1-17, 2-18), Marriotts Ridge (1-15, 2-16).

8. (8) Glenelg (7-10, 8-11)

After winning back-to-back against Oakland Mills and Marriotts Ridge, the Gladiators ran into the toughest part of their schedule, which resulted in losses against Howard (Feb. 6) and Reservoir (Feb. 11). Against the Gators, coach Chris Biel got solid performances from his usual suspects in Ally Forejt, Lauren Wright and Olivia Nowlin. The three combined for 31 points in the loss. This week, Archbishop Carroll comes to town on Monday, followed by trips to River Hill (Wednesday) and Atholton (Thursday) to close out the regular season.

7. (7) Wilde Lake (7-11, 9-12)

The Wildecats always seems like they are going to turn the corner and take down one of the county’s best. After trouncing Marriotts Ridge on Feb. 10, coach Bob Cranford’s girls were matched up against Mt. Hebron in what could have been a big upset win. Unfortunately, the Vikings are playing the county’s best basketball, and though Wilde Lake was riding high, it wasn’t enough to overcome that momentum. Rachel Lazris and Lindsey Williams combined for 22 points in the losing effort. Wilde Lake travels to Howard on Wednesday to end their turnaround season – one that saw more county wins than in the last five winters combined.

6. (6) River Hill (10-8, 12-8)

The Hawks are one of the teams that the weather hit the hardest. Coach Teresa Waters’ girls have only set foot on the court twice in the month of February, defeating Long Reach and then losing to Atholton. Still this team has a solid nucleus in the Collins twins, and with Jessie Hopkins running the point, River Hill could be a threat as it enters the playoff race. Jenna Collins leads her team with 15.6 points per game in county play. The Hawks finish the season against Glenelg on Wednesday, and then Liberty on Feb. 25.

5. (5) Atholton (12-5, 14-5)

The Raiders chances at a county title are very low, but that shouldn’t discount what they have achieved this year. After losing 11 county games last season, coach Julia Reynold has Chelsea Mitchell, Kalere Caldwell, Margaret Tatum and company looking for a 14-county win season. Like the Hawks, Atholton has also only played two games in February. The first was a win against Wilde Lake (for the third time this winter), followed by the squad’s second victory against River Hill. Mitchell notched 13 points in the winning effort, followed by Mayhew with eight, and Tatum and Becca Weinberg with seven each.

The Raiders look to end the season on a strong note against Mt. Hebron on Tuesday, and then Glenelg on Thursday.

4. (3) Reservoir (13-4)

The Gators had a chance to take down a few of the county’s best teams over the past two weeks in Centennial and Mt. Hebron. In both close, physical games, coach Kyle Sullivan’s girls came out on the losing end. Though Zelor Massaquoi was held to just five points in the loss to the Vikings, she still leads the county with 21.3 ppg. After Monday’s game against Oakland Mills, the Gators get one more chance to prove their elite county status on Tuesday, when they welcome Howard. The last time these two teams met, the Lions were victorious, 30-28. Look for this matchup to be the game of the week in Howard County.

3. (1) Centennial (13-3, 14-5)

Against Howard on Feb. 11, the Eagles had a chance to all-but clinch the county title for themselves. Unfortunately, the Lions had other ideas, and took down Centennial, 43-32. Sara Downing (11 points) was the only scorer in double-figures for the Eagles. The loss makes it difficult for coach Bobby Macheel’s girls to win the championship outright. Centennial still has to finish a matchup with Long Reach from earlier in the season, as well as a regularly scheduled game with the Lightning on Wednesday. They’ll finish the regular season Friday at home against Oakland Mills.

2. (4) Mt. Hebron (14-4, 16-5)

The biggest movers in this week’s rankings, the Vikings have made waves over the last few weeks. Despite wins against Centennial and Reservoir in February, Mt. Hebron’s climb in the standings might be too little, too late. Regardless, winning out the regular season will do wonders for coach Tony Bell’s girls, who were already victorious in their last nine games. Nia Crump is playing her best basketball of the year, averaging 14.6 points per game over her last four outings. The Vikings get a chance to avenge an early-season loss to Atholton on Tuesday, followed by Friday’s regular season finale at Dunbar.

1. (2) Howard (14-2, 17-2)

A small late-January stumble to Centennial and River Hill in back-to-back games aside, the Lions have finally made their way back to the No. 1 spot. A modest five-game win streak has coach Scott Robinson’s girls vying for a county championship. Winning their last three games will secure the title outright. Getting revenge against the Eagles on Feb. 11 – a game in which junior guard Jayda Gilmore took control with her 12 fourth quarter points – set the stage for a team that many believed to be preseason favorites. Gimore’s knack for putting the game on her shoulders in pressure situations is something to keep an eye on in the 4A playoffs. But, before then, the Lions must take on Reservoir (Tuesday), Wilde Lake (Wednesday) and Marriotts Ridge (Friday) to close out the regular season.