The final showdown is set.
Mount Hebron took a step toward its seventh state championship last night by overwhelming sixth seed Patapsco, 62-27, in the opening round of the Class 2A, Region II playoffs.
Now comes the hard part. The No. 3-seed Vikings will travel to second-seed Hammond tomorrow night (7 p.m.). Hebron (20-3) must do what it could not pull off last year -- beat Hammond in the third, and most important, meeting between the two rivals.
Last year, after dropping two regular-season decisions to the Vikings, Hammond knocked off Mount Hebron in the regionals. The Bears went on the win their first state title.
Mount Hebron won both regular-season contests against the Bears this year, including a 60-58 overtime thriller two weeks ago. The Vikings went on to wrap up their 13th county title in 15 seasons under Dave Greenberg. But no one on Hebron's team was talking about county championships last night. Everyone was thinking about the Bears.
"It was the worst feeling in the world watching them [Hammond] cut down our nets last year. I hope we get to cut down the nets in their gym this time," Hebron senior guard Tierney Clark said.
The third-ranked Vikings were the superior team last night.
They forced 36 turnovers, out-rebounded the Patriots 49-33 and, despite some horrendous early shooting, took a 32-8 halftime lead.
Mount Hebron made only 25 of 71 shots (35 percent), and missed 14 of 25 free throws, yet cruised to a 41-15 advantage at the end of the third quarter. The Vikings stretched the lead steadily with its second unit on the floor.
Erica McCauley led the Vikings with 12 points and eight steals. Kristen Lloyd had 11 points and seven rebounds.