Mount Hebron coach Dave Greenberg has been around long enough not to take any team lightly.
It has become common, however, for Greenberg to express concern about an opponent, then watch his team cruise to victory.
This time, he wasn't kidding.
Unranked Seton Keough played visiting Mount Hebron even until the final three minutes, when the third-ranked Vikings pulled away for a hard-fought, 53-44 win yesterday.
The game bore little resemblance to last season's meeting between the two teams, which Mount Hebron won by 28 points.
"I really was concerned because we haven't played that well yet," said Greenberg, in his 16th season. "Our youth and inexperience really shows. We need to learn to work together."
Despite his disappointment in his team's performance, Greenberg was quick to give Seton Keough (1-1) credit.
And it was much deserved.
Rather than being intimidated by Mount Hebron's reputation as a perennial power, Seton Keough first-year coach Mike Mohler decided to go after the Vikings (1-0) and try to beat them at their own game.
It has become a trademark of Mount Hebron teams to frustrate opponents with defensive pressure and force them into making mistakes.
The tables were turned yesterday.
"We said from the beginning that our intention was not to have a moral victory and just keep the game close," said Mohler, who coached the Catonsville Community College men's team last season. "We could sit in a zone and try to make them shoot from outside, but we came to play. We thought we could win this game.
"Dave has a great program. We knew they'd execute a little better than us, so we'd have to make up for that with our defensive intensity and by out-hustling them. That's what we did."
The Vikings -- who were without starting junior guard Kathy Doyle (ankle injury) -- were given a much-needed lift by senior guard Emily Yanero, who scored a game-high 16 points.
She made both ends of three straight one-and-ones in the final 1:25 to seal the victory.
"We played well at the end, and it was because of Emily," Greenberg said. "She really took charge and showed great leadership."
The Gators, who were led by freshman guard Charity Carbine (13 points), had pulled within 42-40 on a baseline jumper by junior forward Kathy Dunaway.
After Seton Keough's defense forced a turnover, Dunaway followed her shot and scored inside to tie the game at 42 with 2:58 remaining.
Seton Keough had an opportunity to take the lead, but sophomore guard/forward Meghann Donovan (11 points) was called for a foul away from the ball against Mount Hebron senior forward Kristin Lloyd (10 points).
Lloyd missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Rachel Cimmier grabbed the rebound and scored to give the Vikings the lead for good, 44-42, with 2:33 left.
Cimmier (15 points, 11 rebounds), a 6-foot-2 French exchange student, then pulled down a defensive rebound after a missed shot by Katie Sparks.
From there, Mount Hebron converted nine of 10 free throws.