North Carroll's 56-41 loss at Linganore on Wednesday night pretty much exemplifies the kind of season it has been for girls basketball in Carroll County.
The No. 8 Panthers (13-3) are enjoying a fine season, but have been unable to get over the hump against Central Maryland Conference nemesis Linganore, which beat them for the second time this season and appears on its way to a third straight CMC title.
The other four teams in the county are just trying to get over the hump, period. Liberty, South Carroll, Francis Scott Key and Westminster are just under the .500 mark and still searching for an identity.
First, back to North Carroll where the Panthers and coach Greg Knill have things running on all cylinders this season, despite their problems with Linganore.
"Our goal coming into the season was to take it one step farther than last year," Knill said. "They aren't centered around county and conference titles, those things are like icing on the cake. The whole cake for us is to get to states at UMBC."
They likely will have to go through unbeaten Middletown in their region to reach the state tournament. That was the roadblock last season for the Panthers, who dropped a 57-54 decision at Middletown in the region finals.
The second loss to Linganore dampens any chance of North Carroll winning the CMC, but the Panthers look to be in pretty good shape in the county race with a 3-0 mark.
All season, the talk at South Carroll (6-8) has been the play of its three up-and-coming sophomores -- Nicole Spencer, Amber Clutter and Melissa Gettemy.
You can add one more sophomore to the list in Erin Nauyalis, who scored 18 points and added 16 rebounds in a 62-48 win against Thomas Johnson on Wednesday.
The Cavaliers lost Spencer for the season when she sustained a knee injury Jan. 19 against Westminster. She was averaging more than 15 points and 11 rebounds. After extensive surgery last Friday, she faces six to eight months of rehabilitation.
Wednesday night's win against Thomas Johnson was the first for the Cavs in four games since Spencer's injury.
"No question she's a hard person to replace with her physical ability and great leadership," said South Carroll coach Al Skierski.
"The team is starting to learn we're going to have to play without her and the kids have stepped up. More pressure has been put on different kids to produce and instead of being followers, some have grown into leaders."
As for Spencer, Skierski has no doubt she'll be ready to go next year and this year's misfortune could have a silver lining.
"She's just so gifted and enthusiastic. Doctors told her six to eight months, but it may be less with her," Skierski said.
Liberty coach Tom Delise said he thinks three county wins, maybe even two wins, should get him a region playoff berth. The Lions enter tonight's game against Westminster 7-8 overall and 2-0 in the county.
"Overall, I'm pretty happy with where we are at this point," Delise said.
"We've had our ups and downs and that's what I kind of expected. We still have a shot at the playoffs and maybe a county championship, but making the playoffs is our main goal.
"Once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. We have two good players in [Amy] Wolff and [Dani] Fostik that can make things happen. If Wolff has one of her good nights she can easily pop 30 and who knows?"
Westminster remains the mystery team at 7-8. There's plenty of experienced talent on the squad, and if the Owls can get things turned around in a hurry, they could be dangerous.
Seniors Tinah Houck, Kenya Warfield and Jessica Farinholt are the keys up front, and junior guard Brooke Holland is a threat from the outside. A county title doesn't appear likely after losing their first two, but they still can have a say in who does win it, with meetings against Liberty and North Carroll still ahead.
Francis Scott Key senior guard Erin Murphey is putting together another solid all-around year, but the Eagles have struggled to find a consistent inside scorer. The dilemma has put Key at 6-9 this season.
Murphey is averaging 17.3 points and 6.0 rebounds, along with 48 steals and 25 assists on the season.
Backcourt mate Shelley Smith, also a senior, is the only other Eagle scoring in double figures, averaging 12.3 points.