Annapolis girls basketball coach Dave Griffith will watch with interest when Old Mill, Severna Park and Arundel start beating up on each other.
"We've played all three and they haven't played each other yet," Griffith said. "By far, our schedule is the toughest. Down the road, that will make us a better team."
Unranked Annapolis didn't beat No. 7 Old Mill or No. 13 Severna Park, much less No. 5 St. Mary's, but it did beat No. 17 Arundel. The Panthers evened their record at 4-4 by defeating Arundel (6-2) last night, 56-37.
"I don't pay attention to rankings at this stage," Griffith said, "and I tell my kids not to."
However, he does pay attention to solid defense, a strong transition game and a fast tempo. He got all three last night, just as he did in Annapolis' Capital City Classic in which the Panthers defeated South River and Frederick Douglass of Prince George's County.
"It seems we've turned it around in the last three or four games," Griffith said. "Even against Old Mill, Severna Park and Annapolis, we were close until the end."
His only complaint last night was that Annapolis didn't exhibit a killer instinct. Thanks largely to 14 unanswered points in the first half that brought them from arrears into an 11-point advantage, the Panthers had a 28-14 halftime lead.
Late in the third quarter, however, Annapolis let Arundel entertain illusions that it was getting back in the game. The Wildcats ran off nine points to climb within 44-30.
"We get way up and don't put them away," Griffith said. "But I felt if we played a fast transition game, we'd wear them down, and we did."
Shannon Henderson, who entered the game as the area's third-leading scorer with a 19.1 average and had 69 points in her previous three outings, was held to 16, still a game high. She was handicapped by the fact she got her third foul four minutes into the second quarter.
"She played sparingly after that," Griffith said. "We wanted to have her around at the end."
Plunging the 6-foot-1 Henderson into foul trouble was very much part of Arundel's game plan.
"The girls did a good job against her," Arundel coach Lee Rogers said. "They took it to her, realizing she wasn't somebody who couldn't be conquered."
Rogers' only disappointment was the fact his team's play was lackadaisical in the first half.
"We could have been a little intimidated," he said. "They beat us last year at the buzzer on a controversial call, and the girls seemed to remember that. They weren't confident at first."
Griffith said that after facing "one ranked team after another, we're finally playing as we should."