Camille Powell always has put tremendous pressure on herself, both in the classroom and on the playing field. Pressure? No one applies it like Powell.
Powell ended a terrific four-year run with the Howard Lions fittingly last week, when she got to perform in her first state tournament. But after playing the kind of dogged defense that made the Lions a strong team all season, her 30-foot shot at the buzzer missed the mark. Howard's best season ended with a 38-36 defeat to Walt Whitman.
And Howard's best player should have taken a bow.
"She [Powell] is not just our offensive leader as our point guard, but she's the one girl who bothers everything in our press," Howard coach Craig O'Connell said of Powell, The Baltimore Sun's Howard County Girls Basketball Player of the Year. "You can't expect one girl to come along and replace all of the things Camille did for us."
Powell was a nightmare for opponents. At 5 feet 8, with long arms and legs that never seemed to get tired, she sparked a defense that forced turnovers and turned them into points all season. She was the ideal combination of athleticism, work ethic and quiet leadership.
Powell's senior season was her best. She averaged 11.1 points on 39 percent shooting, but scoring was only a part of her game.
She was scrappy around the boards (5.1 rebounds) and a steady, unselfish ballhandler (5.2 assists). Most importantly she was the county's most disruptive force on defense (7.5 steals). She wound up as the school's career leader in assists (437) and steals (474).
"If she didn't score a point, she'd still be awesome," O'Connell said.
Where would the Lions (19-7) have gone this year without Powell? Not as far as they did.
The Lions lacked depth from the beginning of the season. And at midseason, they found out how painful Powell's absence was for them.
Powell sprained her ankle in the opening minute of a late January game at Mount Hebron, and the Lions quickly lost their composure en route to a 39-point loss.
O'Connell remembers what Sharon Ford -- who took over some of Powell's point guard duties -- said to him after that 64-25 defeat. "Sharon told me, 'I don't know how Camille does it game after game,' " he said.
A week later, while Powell rested the ankle, Howard barely pulled out a victory over last-place Centennial. Two weeks later, Powell fell ill and watched the Lions fall apart in the fourth quarter before losing to Oakland Mills, 51-44.
When Powell returned after the Oakland Mills loss, the Lions snapped out of their funk. Two weeks later, they upset Mount Hebron. Then, they took an 18-point lead at halftime against Hammond, before dropping a 50-48 heart-breaker in their regular-season finale. Howard's next loss came in the state tournament.
Powell ends her high school career with some impressive credentials. In the last three years, Howard has accumulated a 55-20 record, while becoming one of the metropolitan area's better teams.
Powell has been the team's cornerstone throughout that phase. Between her 4.0 grade-point average and the tireless work habits that have helped put Howard basketball on the map, she leaves a hole that will be tough to fill.
"She's such a level-headed kid that everything she does, she does well," O'Connell said.
The first team at a glance
Hammond, Jr., G
Williams, a 5-foot-6 point guard, has been the key to Hammond's success since she stepped onto the court two years ago. Although she struggled offensively at times during the county season, Williams still leads the team in scoring with a 12.1 average. She also led the Bears in assists (5.1) and steals (4.5) and had another great year on the boards, where she averaged " 6.8 rebounds, second on the team. Without Williams, Hammond is a fine team, but she makes the Bears a great team. "Her most important attribute is being a coach on the floor," coach Joe Russo said. "Her leadership is real important. Kacy keeps everybody going, and she sets the pace. The girls look to her."
Hammond, Soph., F
Although Williams is Hammond's leader, no Bear improved this year as dramatically as Harrison, who became the county's top front-line player. She averaged 10.2 points and 6.3 rebounds, and often carried the scoring load on nights when Williams struggled. Harrison (5-9) came into her own during the county season, when she scored in double figures seven straight games. "Tameka's consistency and improved scoring have been big keys for us this year," Russo said. "She's gained about 20 pounds since last year, and it's made her stronger around the basket. She's also become a smarter defensive player."
Mount Hebron, Jr., G
A second-team selection last year, Yanero gets the nod for playing a key role in a Hebron offense that was limited by the absence of Player of the Year Kris Bryant, who missed most of the season with a knee injury. Yanero, who averaged 12.7 points, incorporated a sneaky first step and drive to the basket to go with her already effective outside shot. She also finished second on the team in assists (2.9) and steals (3.6) and third in rebounds (4.7). She has moved up to sixth on Hebron's all-time scoring list with 834 points. "Even though she does a lot of other things well, she's a scorer first, and she's real fluid," Hebron coach Dave Greenberg said. "She's our most versatile offensive player."
Mount Hebron, Sr., G
When you think of what a point guard should do for an offense, think of what McCauley has done for Hebron. This year, McCauley averaged 12.3 points, shot 41 percent from three-point range, hit 54 treys and made 81 percent of her free throws. No one took better care of the ball than McCauley, who for the third straight year, averaged a little more than two turnovers. She also averaged 3.9 steals and 3.7 assists. "We took for granted all of the things she did for us. She understands the game so well, she makes you win," Greenberg said. "Because of her, it was difficult for teams to pressure us and difficult for teams to keep us from getting off a good shot." McCauley wound up with 1,074 points (third on Hebron's all-time list) and shot 39 percent from three-point range in three years. In those three seasons, the Vikings went 65-9, won three county championships and a state title.