How good is Howard County high school girls basketball? Here's how good:
Glenelg won a regional championship this year, sending the Gladiators to their second state tournament in the last three years. The Gladiators battled eventual champion Mount Hebron in the semifinalsfor three tough quarters before bowing out, 47-40, and finishing with a solid 17-8 record.
A great season for Glenelg and first-year coach Barb Wolf, to be sure.
And yet, Glenelg had little to boast about in the county. The Gladiators finished fourth in the league standings. What's more, Glenelg, despite its obvious talent, has no players on the Howard County Sun's All-County teams.
"After we beat Watkins Mill (Montgomery County) in the regional final (57-42), their coach came up to me and told me how great our man-to-man defense was," Wolf said. "I thanked him and then told him we only finished fourth in the county. He couldn't believe it."
All of which led Mount Hebron coach Dave Greenberg to say, "I think it's safe to say Howard County plays the best girls basketball in the state."
Hebron has long been the best in the county, with 11 titles in Greenberg's 13 years. In those 13 years, he has amassed six state titles, an overall 266-54 record (.831) and an incredible 169-13 (.929) mark against the county.
But in recent years, the Vikings have been the best in an increasingly competitive league.
Consider this: Howard County sent four teams, or half the league, to regional championship games this year. Three of those teams -- Hebron, Oakland Mills and Glenelg -- advanced to the state tournament. The fourth team, Howard, likely would have made it to Catonsville Community College had Oakland Mills not eliminated the Lions, 62-60, in the 3A Region I title game, the best game played in the countythis season.
Hebron and Oakland Mills advanced to last week's state finals. Hebron won the county's only state title. But no county was better represented at Catonsville than Howard.
The strength of the county is reflected in the Howard County Sun's All-County teams.
We selected our entire first and second teams from the league's topthree squads -- Hebron (13-1 county record), Oakland Mills (12-2) and Howard (10-4). It was tough leaving out such standouts as Glenelg junior guard Tanissa Dorsey, Glenelg senior forward Leslie Service andHammond's Kacey Williams, the most exciting freshman to come into the league since, well, Hebron's Erica McCauley last year.
McCauley and Greer, the top two First Team picks, have already been accounted for as players of the year. Here are the rest of the Howard County Sun's All-County selections:
Mia Dammen (Oakland Mills): A First Team selection last year, Dammen, 5-9 senior guard and a fiery competitor, brought the same headaches to opponents this year. Once again, she was the catalyst in the Scorpions' full-court pressure defense, which sparked them to a 23-3 record -- their best ever -- and their first appearance in the state final since 1977. She led theteam in scoring (17.4) and assists (6.1), led the county in steals (11) and had 6.7 rebounds a game.
"You don't find that many girls who are as gung-ho or outspoken as Mia," Oakland Mills coach Teresa Waters said. "If someone is lagging, she's the first one to push them. She just busts butt all the time."
Christine Copeland (Oakland Mills): Copeland, a 5-10 senior forward, was the league's most physical inside player and gave Oakland Mills its steadiest production in the paint. She scored 10.3 points a game, grabbed a team-high 10.9 rebounds and blocked a team-high 12 shots. She also had 3.8 steals a game.
Andrea Day (Mount Hebron): Day, a 5-9 senior forward, was one of the league's more unsung players. But she was a crucial part of the Vikings' small starting frontcourt, and inch for inch was the league's premier rebounder. She averaged 7.9 points on 43 percent shooting, a team-high 7.9 rebounds, and she excelled in areas that don't show up in box scores.
"She played the best interior defense of anybody inthe league," Greenberg said. "She was the second most-important player on the floor for us."
Stefanie Magro (Oakland Mills): Magro, a 5-6 senior point guard, was the Scorpions' premier defensive player and their top shooter -- as her 49.3 percent shooting attests -- as well as their best ballhandler. Her defense sparked manyof Dammen's transition layups. Magro averaged 11.5 points, 6.7 steals, 2.7 assists and 2.9 rebounds.
Christy McCauley (Mount Hebron): Her sister may have been the team's best player, but McCauley was an indispensable part of the Vikings' success.
An excellent defensiveplayer, the 5-6 senior guard was second on the team in rebounding (4.5). The best foul shooter in school history, she bettered last year's 80 percent proficiency by hitting 82 percent of her free throws this year. She averaged 8.2 points and 3.3 assists. And in her last 15 games -- when Hebron went 15-0 en route to another state title -- McCauley shot 45.5 percent from two-point range, 40 percent from three-point range, and a whopping 87.8 percent at the foul line.
Andrea Romich (Oakland Mills): Romich, a 5-9 senior forward, was the Scorpions' most unsung, unselfish and versatile player. She was an effective scorer inside and from the 10- to 12-foot range as well as the team's best free-throw shooter (72.5 percent). She could play every positionbut point guard, depending on who was out of the game in foul trouble. She averaged 10.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.8 steals and two assists.
Cescili Drake (Mount Hebron): Drake, a 5-6 senior guard, specialized in sparking the Vikings' man-to-man defense away from the basket, as her 3.9 steals (second on the team) shows. She also averaged 8.2points and 2.4 assists.
Another unselfish player, Drake's passinggame improved significantly this year, which should aid her next year, when she'll be attending the University of North Carolina-Greensboro on a scholarship. She was recruited to play point guard.
KristaFulton (Howard): The comeback story of the season, Fulton, a 5-10 junior forward, rebounded from a disastrous sophomore season that endedsoon after it started with a serious neck injury. Fulton rebounded from an eight-month layoff to regain All-County form as a soccer goalie, then came back strong for Lions coach Craig O'Connell. She averaged 11 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.3 blocked shots.
"I gave her my Most Courageous Player Award," O'Connell said. "A lot of coaches who came to see Kristi (Greer) would ask me who No. 41 (Fulton) was and what grade she was in. I'd tell them she was a junior and they would say, 'Hmmm.' "
Howard County Sun All-County Girls Basketball Team
.. .. .. .. .. .. ..FIRST TEAM
PLAYER .. .. .. .. .. SCHOOL .. .. .. CLASS .. .. POSITION
Erica McCauley .. .. Mount Hebron .. soph. .. .. .. guard
Kristi Greer .. .. .. Howard .. .. ..senior .. .. . guard
Christine Copeland .. Oakland Mills .. senior .. .. forward
Andrea Day .. .. .. . Mount Hebron .. .senior .. .. forward
Mia Dammen .. .. .. . Oakland Mills .. senior .. .. ..guard
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. SECOND TEAM
PLAYER .. .. .. .. .. SCHOOL .. .. .. CLASS .. .. POSITION
Christy McCauley .. . Mount Hebron .. senior .. .. . guard
Cescili Drake .. .. . Mount Hebron .. .senior .. .. . guard
Stefanie Magro .. .. Oakland Mills .. senior .. .. . guard
Andrea Romich .. .. ..Oakland Mills .. senior .. .. forward
Krista Fulton .. .. ..Howard .. .. .. junior .. .. forward