Take a charge, get a pair of socks.
It's Centennial coach Dave Greenberg's way of rewarding his players for landing on their bottoms for the good of the team.
"Taking a charge for our team is so exciting," said Centennial junior guard Michelle Kincaid. "Everyone gets pumped up."
It might seem like a little thing to take a charge, but Greenberg always stresses the little things. They never appear in the box score, but ultimately show up in the win column.
Centennial is county co-champion this season with Wilde Lake because of the little things it does so well, especially on defense. No team in the county plays better defense -- a more intense, in-you-face defense -- than the Eagles.
"It's what wins our games," said junior Kathleen O'Connor.
Four seasons ago, and a year before Greenberg took over the Eagles' program, Centennial was 2-20. In Greenberg's first season the Eagles were 11-11 overall and 7-7 in the league. Last year they were 17-7 overall and tied for second in the county at 9-5. This season, with the playoffs set to start Friday, the Eagles are 17-5 and 16-2.
Greenberg and his long-time assistant, Brad Rees, had hoped to be competitive in three years. They certainly succeeded.
Centennial has risen to the top because of Greenberg's coaching and his players' commitment to the program.
"It's time the kids get credit," said Greenberg, who has received his share after coaching six Mount Hebron girls basketball teams to state titles. "If you don't get good kids who put the time in, this would not have happened. They deserve the credit."
Greenberg encourages his players to play throughout the year. "The off-season is the time you develop and improve individual skills," Greenberg said.
They have done that.
Greenberg's practices are intense and, said O'Connor, more difficult than games.
"Anyone who didn't love basketball couldn't stand the practices," said O'Connor.
Said senior Mallory Groves, who leads the team in the new socks category with four, about the practices: "They're like nothing I've experienced before. Everything is on schedule and on time. You move from one drill to the next. There's no room for stopping."
Centennial doesn't have a star player, a person it can rely on every night.
"I think that's the strength of our team," said Kincaid, who has played in only seven games this season because of an injury and illness but will be counted on more heavily in the playoffs since guard Stacie Tokasz broke her left foot in the final regular-season game last Wednesday. "Someone can have an off day and someone else will pick it up and we'll still win."
The Eagles are a collection of athletes who play within themselves. "Everybody knows their capabilities and what they're expected to do," said Kincaid.
And Greenberg, who generally plays at least nine of his 12 players by halftime, makes it known that everyone on the team -- including freshman Erika Schroeder, sophomores Icyis Richardson, Alexia Vogler, Cara Pulliam and Jane Williams, juniors Jessica Mentz and Caitlin Ryland and senior Meredith Price -- is important.
"Everybody on this team really and truly contributes," said Groves.
Kincaid said there are "so many" positive things to say about this season. But behind the stingy defense, the improved offense and the strong depth lies the players.
The best thing, said Kincaid, "is that our team has really bonded."
"We're very close," said O'Connor.
When Greenberg began at Centennial, he started from scratch. He looked for young players that would fit into his system. O'Connor, Kincaid, Price and Groves were on the varsity three years ago. As they improved, the team improved.
Price leads the Eagles in scoring (12.9) and rebounding (6.1). Richardson is averaging 9.5 points and six rebounds and O'Connor, who has made 36 three-point baskets in 109 attempts, is averaging 7.6 points.
"It's taken three years of hard work," Groves said. "He [Greenberg] always said if you want it and work hard you can do it."
Now they have the trophy to prove it.
Pub Date: 2/23/97