This, that and the other:
Howard's girls basketball team has beengathering steam all year. Last week, the Lions blasted off.
After remarkable victories over Hammond and Glenelg, Howard (7-1 county, 14-2 overall) is the only team left standing in the neighborhood of first-place Mount Hebron (8-0, 15-1). The Lions also received a huge dose of confidence as they begin the stretch run to the playoffs.
"I hope we can carry this through. I hope we're not peaking atthe wrong time," said Howard coach Craig O'Connell.
It's hard to envision the Lions playing much better than last week, when their size, quickness, hustle and considerable skills came together beautifully -- first in a 55-39 handling of Hammond, then in a 61-37 rout at Glenelg.
The Lions proved they are a physical, well-conditioned bunch. They assaulted the boards, collecting 81 rebounds in two games, including 40 on offense. And when the time came to put away their opponent, the Lions responded with terrific finishes. They blew away Hammond with 23 points in the fourth quarter, then blitzed Glenelg for 24 in the last period.
Freshman guard/forward Mona Jackson is a secret no more. After scoring 35 points and grabbing 30 rebounds, Jackson earned Player of the Week honors in The Sun.
Junior point guard Camille Powell asserted herself as the Lions' key player. Although she scored only nine points in the two games, Powell set the tone each night with great defense and unselfish play. She produced nine rebounds, 14 assists, 10 steals and two blocked shots. And Powell was sensational in the fourth period at Glenelg with four steals, three assists and a blocked shot. She also drew a charging foul.
Junior guard Sharon Ford (33 points, 14 rebounds) had the best week of her two-year career. Senior center Krista Fulton had 18 points and 20 rebounds. She blocked seven shots against Glenelg.
"Their confidence is so high right now," O'Connell said. "My job is to make them not forget about their next game."
Translation: O'Connell doesn't want the Lions looking ahead to next week's Thursday rematch at Mount Hebron. The Vikings beat the Lions in a hard-fought 56-47 decision two weeks ago.
"I think Howard is the better basketball team," said Glenelg coach Chuck Struhar, who lost to both teams last week. "Hebron might kill us the next time they play us (Feb.27), but that's honestly how I feel. Howard creates more match-up problems with their quickness."
As uplifting as the week was for Howard, it proved a downer for Glenelg. The Gladiators gave Hebron its biggest scare in two months, carrying a six-point lead into the middle of the fourth quarter, before the Vikings scored the last 18 points to take a 61-49 victory. Two nights later, the Gladiators were outscored 24-8 in the fourth period by Howard.
The Gladiators (5-3, 11-5) are still a solid, state playoff-caliber team. But their lack of depth was exposed in each contest. And Struhar, who rolled the dice with his starters almost exclusively both nights -- only to watch them run out of gas at the end -- promises to reach deeper into his bench during the last three weeks of the regular season.
Show me a team that hangs tough in close games, and I'll show you a winner. Mount Hebron's boys basketball teamis in second place in the county with a 6-2 record in county play, and nothing has come easy for the Vikings. They've won four times by three points, once by a point and once by five. The Vikings have lost by four and six points.
On the other hand, look at Centennial. TheEagles have been in most county games, but have a 2-6 record to showfor it. They've lost by six, five and two points along the way.
By the time you read this, Hammond should have clinched the dual-meet wrestling title. The Golden Bears, the only undefeated team in the county, played host to Howard last night (past the Howard County Sun's deadline).
Only half of Hammond's mission is done, however. The Bears already have ended Oakland Mills' 25-meet winning streak against the county. They must win their first county tournament next week to make a more meaningful mark in a great season.
Hammond appears to be in good shape. Erin Woodward (125 pounds) and Pat Brennan (189) have recovered from bouts with bronchitis. And no Hammond regular has a losing record. One hundred forty-five-pounder Josh Stokes (22-7, 16 pins, undefeated in county), 112-pounder John Motley (29-2, 14 pins), 130-pounder Chris Mercurio (29-2, 13 pins), 160-pounder Mac Goudy (19-6-1, 11 pins) and Brennan (19-7-1, 11 pins) lead the way.
"We've given them some time off. Now we're well-rested," Coach Bill Smith said. "The intensity hasn't quite been there, but we're in a goodposition to get it going again. I still think Oakland Mills is the favorite."
Two Oakland Mills football players, wide receiver/safety Gregg Washington and tight end/linebacker Kelly Sykes, have accepted full scholarships at Howard University.