Melissa Singleton and Amy Caldwell do not want their best high school basketball memories to come from three years ago.
Back then, Oakland Mills went to the state finals, finishing 21-2. Now for the first time since, the two seniors have the Scorpions on the brink of returning to the regional playoffs.
Playing in next week's regionals would, in some ways, be even better than their trip to the state final as freshmen.
"My freshman year, I didn't really contribute," said Singleton. "If we make the playoffs, it will be something I was really a part of. It would be a great accomplishment because of the last two years."
The past two seasons were pretty forgettable with their combined record of 9-35.
After the banner season in 1990-91, the Scorpions hit a sophomore slump. Losing their top talent to graduation, they hit rock bottom in the Howard County standings at 1-21. Last year, they rebounded to go 8-14.
This season, the Scorpions already have surpassed that win total, improving to 9-8. They should earn one of six qualifying spots in the Class 2A South region.
With No. 2 Hammond also in their region, the Scorpions know it would take the upset of the decade to reach the state final four, but that doesn't detract from the progress they have made.
"There's been a big change through the years," said Singleton. "It feels pretty good. People have underestimated us, because of the past two years. I don't mind being underestimated, because the underdog can come through."
The Scorpions have surprised more than one opponent. In one week, they upset two ranked teams, Glenelg and Wilde Lake. They also came back and beat Thomas Johnson and Howard after losing to both the first time around.
Singleton and Caldwell are two big reasons why the Scorpions have been able to rebound. Surrounded by a young supporting cast, the two team captains have provided leadership on and off the court.
"Missy is a soft-spoken captain where Amy is more straightforward off thecourt, but it's almost the reversal on the court," said Scorpions coach Teresa Waters.
Singleton, who has been a captain for three years, is the cornerstone of the team. A volleyball player with a great vertical leap, Singleton is more suited to the small forward position, but Waters has needed her experience in the backcourt.
A good outside shooter, the 5-foot-6 guard leads the team in scoring with 14 points a game. She also averages about five rebounds and five steals.
"When Missy steps on the court," said Caldwell, "We all feel more self-assured as a team, because we depend on her to do everything for us. She always seems so consistent. She's always there for the fast break, to get a shot off, with a steal, with a blocked shot, whatever we need."
Caldwell excels in areas that don't show up in the box score. The 5-9 forward plays strong defense and averages eight rebounds and five steals a game.
"Amy does a lot of things that go unnoticed," said Waters. "She doesn't worry about getting the limelight. She doesn't have to get her name in the paper. She doesn't score a lot of points although the potential is there, but she she seems to be more comfortable when other people take the shots."
The stability of the two seniors has helped bring along a talented, but not as experienced, supporting cast that includes 6-2 junior center Lauren McHargue, sophomore point guard Ginny Dye and sophomore forward Terri Hayman.
Singleton and Caldwell are quick to point out that when the Scorpions are playing well, there are no stars, just an ensemble.
"When we beat Thomas Johnson, the whole team scored in double figures," said Caldwell.
"It wasn't one person who stood out," added Singleton.
"When they stopped one person, someone else picked it up. That's exactly the kind of thing we need."
Singleton and Caldwell learned the team approach early on. They remember being made to feel part of the team three years ago, and they extend that same feeling to this season's freshmen.
"That was a great experience," said Singleton. "We were just accepted onto the team even though we were freshmen. It built my self-esteem even though I didn't play much. It was the best year of my life."
But this season is gaining ground all the time.