Atholton is playing some of its best ball of the season .
And yesterday the league-leading Wilde Lake Wildecats found how good the Raiders can be.
The Wildecats, which could have won the county championship out- right by winning all three of its games this week, absorbed a 68-58 thrashing by the Raiders.
Atholton (14-6, 8-4) now is tied for first place with Wilde Lake (10-9, 8-4) with two games left to play.
The margin of victory was deceiving, because Atholton led by 15 to 20 points for most of the game.
The Raiders played a pressure man-for-man defense that gave Wilde Lake problems from the start. Wilde Lake missed its first 13 shots and fell behind 12-0.
It took Wilde Lake 6:42 before it scored. Point guard Terrence Butler (19 points) sank a layup.
"Atholton came out prepared to play and we were out of sync," Wilde Lake forward Sule Carpenter said. "It's hard to describe how intense they were. They crashed the boards harder, they ran us up and down the court and we didn't handle their pressure defense."
That defense forced the Wildecats into a shooting funk that was scary. Wilde Lake hit on only seven of 38 shots from the floor in the first half. At first, its shots were all coming up short. Then they came up long. Air balls were frequent.
"Our game plan was to stop their fast break but we couldn't," Carpenter said.
Atholton coach Jim Albert said, "Wilde Lake looked a little tired in the first half. We played well. We wanted to rebound and hold them to 50 points. We wanted a full-court game so [Seth] Willingham couldn't stand around and shoot. And when we trapped other people, we never took a man off Willingham."
Willingham, Wilde Lake's leading scorer at 18.2 points per game, was held to 14 points. Six of those came in the last minute on two three-pointers. When Willingham has scored below 18 points, Wilde Lake has won only once all season.
He took his share of shots, but missed badly until late in the game.
Wilde Lake's inside team of Carl Jackson (six points, 11 rebounds) and Carpenter (10 points, five rebounds) was no match for Atholton's D. J. Chiles (nine points, 15 rebounds), Tony Stewart (19 points, five rebounds) and Nat Watkins (12 points, six rebounds).
"They played good defense on our big guys and Seth," Jackson said. "They made good traps."
Jackson, sipping a quart of orange juice, said he was slowed by a bad cold. "My head was pounding the whole first half until I took an Advil at halftime, and then I started playing better," he said.
Wilde Lake trailed 37-17 at halftime and cut Atholton's lead to 43-32 with a Butler-led comeback just before Jackson picked up his fourth foul.
Then, with 7:07 left to play, Jackson fouled out and Atholton took control again with its domination of the boards. Its lead soared to 20 points, 56-36.