Both county entries in the state boys basketball playoffs at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House this week rate as underdogs onpaper.
Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake each are seeded fourth and have drawn top-seeded teams in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's State Tournament.
But don't count either team out.
Oakland Mills (17-7) must beat the undefeated Catonsville Comets (24-0) in the Class 3A semifinal at 5 p.m. tomorrow.
Wilde Lake (16-9) challenges once-beaten Edgewood (23-1) in Class 2A at 7 p.m. Friday.
Winners advance to Saturday's finals.
The Scorpions, county champs for the fourth straight year, are the defending Class 3A state champions, but all five starters on last year's team graduated.
This will be Oakland Mills' fifth trip to the state tournament, and fourth in the last six years. TheScorpions have a chance to do what only 11 teams in the tournament's64-year history have done: win back-to-back titles. No team from metropolitan Baltimore has ever done so.
The trio of guard Carruthers Gant, forward Marc Terry and forward Gregg Washington will certainly be as good as any three players on any team in Class 3A.
Among the three other teams contending, Catonsville hasn't sent a team to the Final Four since 1983, and DuVal, a Prince George's County high school whose team is ranked ninth in the Washington area by the Washington Post, hasn't been since 1975. Both those teams will be nervous. It will be the fourth trip in eight years for Northern High School, inCalvert County, but that team has never won a state championship.
Two of this year's Oakland Mills starters played significant roles in last year's state championship game against Northern.
Gant, a senior averaging 20 points and five assists this year, came off the bench against Northern and scored 15 points.
Terry, then a freshman, scored nine points shooting 4-for-5 from the floor. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound forward also blocked a shot. He is averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds this year.
"It's definitely an advantage to have kids who've been around before, because they can help the ones who haven't,"Scorpions coach Dave Appleby said.
Northern (20-4), which plays DuVal (20-4) in its semifinal, also will be toughened by last year's tournament experience, but the Patriots graduated their top three scorers from that championship game.
Gant has great shooting range andis virtually unstoppable one-on-one. He scored 32 points in each regional playoff win. He had another 30-point game against Atholton.
Terry is a bull inside, and the Scorpions like to get it to him on the low post where he is a highly accurate shooter with an array of power moves to the hoop.
Washington, a 6-5 junior, is averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds. He scores a lot off rebounds and loose balls but can shoot outside.
Catonsville, Baltimore County, 3A-4A league champ, has five starters who average in double figures and has a pressing defense.
Two transfers, 6-2 senior center Marlon Barbour (Fallston) and 6-1 junior Teron Owens (DeMatha) helped Catonsville to itsbest season ever this year.
"We destroyed every record for most wins, etc.," Comets coach Art Gamzon said. "We're not a big team, but we play well together."
Gamzon is a 20-year resident of Columbia and former Oakland Mills coach who took the Scorpions to the state playoffs in 1980 and took Milford Mill to states in 1985.
Catonsville's only state title was in 1928, the second year of the tournament. This will be the team's seventh trip to the tournament. They were ranked sixth in The Sun's Boys Top 20 poll of Feb. 26. Oakland Mills was unranked.
Wilde Lake (16-9) has an equally tough challenge inits opening game against Edgewood (23-1) Friday.
Edgewood has already beaten three county teams: Mount Hebron, 61-56; Atholton, 92-57;and Howard, 98-69. Wilde Lake lost to both Howard (85-51) and Mount Hebron (66-58).
"Edgewood is not big but extremely quick and has good leapers. They press all the time," Wilde Lake coach Paul Ellis said.
The Rams also like to trap at half-court and play a man-for-man press after foul shots. And they go to the offensive boards strongly.
Steve Lewis is Edgewood's best shooter. Maurice Boone is the team's top ballhandler. And Damon Bowman is a strong inside player.
Wilde Lake is also quick and has three players averaging in double figures.
Guard Joe Guyton (17.6), 6-5 forward Phil Chenier (15.5) and forward Randy Miller (12.9) are consistent.
Guyton has scored indouble figures in 23 of 24 games and 10 times has hit the twenties. Chenier has 17 games in double figures and seven in the twenties. Miller has 17 games in double figures.
Guyton and Chenier have becometake-charge players in crunch time, a luxury that few teams possess.Most teams are lucky to have one guy to take charge.
Chenier scored 61 points in the two regional playoff games, including a career-high 32 in the final against Hammond, a team that had beaten Wilde Laketwice.
Guyton scored 42 points in regionals.
Wilde Lake, whichtied with Hammond for second place in the county at 10-4, is the hottest team in the county, winning 11 of its last 13 games.
It also knows how to win the close ones, beating Oakland Mills by five, Northeast by two, Atholton and Overlea by three and Centennial in overtime.
Wilde Lake has a strong bench and uses almost everybody during agame.
Chenier, Miller and Adam Tyer give the 'Cats strong rebounding. David Friedman and Guyton both handle the ball well.
Edgewoodwas ranked No. 14 by The Sun on Feb. 26. Wilde Lake was unranked.
Edgewood's last appearance in the state tournament was 1977. The team won a state title in 1975. This is its sixth appearance.
Wilde Lake makes its fourth trip to Cole Field House and the first since it won the 1985 state title under Coach Frank Rhodes.
If the 'Cats get by Edgewood, they must beat the winner of Watkins Mill (20-4) vs. Forestville (20-4). Watkins Mill, Montgomery County, is ranked 13th inthe Washington area by the Washington Post and Forestville is ranked10th.
This is Watkins Mills' first state playoff. Forestville is making its third trip; it won a state title in 1985.