It's still early, but the No. 3-ranked Annapolis boys basketball team is so talented that it's safe to say the Panthers (11-0) will be returning to the Anne Arundel County championship game at Meade on Feb. 24.
The opponent is not as predictable with three teams -- Broadneck, Meade, Old Mill -- tied for second behind 5-0 Annapolis at 4-1 and Glen Burnie at 3-1.
No. 17 Broadneck (7-4 overall) visits Annapolis in one of the top two public school games tonight. The teams split last season, each winning on the other's court, Annapolis by 59-53 and Broadneck by 61-48.
No. 10 Meade (10-1) is at Glen Burnie (6-4) in the other. Both games begin at 7: 15 p.m.
It's practically unanimous among county coaches that Annapolis will be no less than second in league play. The county's first- and second-place teams will play in the championship game since the county did away with division competition.
Meade defeated Annapolis, 70-63, in last season's title game at Broadneck, and veteran coach Butch Young hopes to be there again, especially because the game is scheduled for his home floor.
Young's Mustangs, whose only loss was to Annapolis, 54-48, on Dec. 22, took a big step toward that goal with Tuesday's 61-59 thriller over No. 15 Old Mill (9-2).
Old Mill plays Annapolis once on Jan. 29 in the Panthers Den and travel to Meade on Feb. 19, so the Mustangs' win at Old Mill was a big one. Right, coach?
"Yeah, but we've got to play everybody else around the league, and there could be some upsets along the way," said Young.
"I don't think there is nearly the gap [between top teams and the rest] that a lot of people think there is. I think that Anne Arundel County basketball is pretty decent."
Young and his Mustangs may be catching a short-handed Glen Burnie tonight. After a 4-1 start, the Gophers lost their center, 6-4 senior George Schneider, to an injury a couple weeks ago. Coach Mike Rudd doesn't expect Schneider back until next month.
The Gophers' leading scorer, 6-4 senior Owen Gaither (19.4 points per game) is doubtful for tonight's game with a badly sprained left ankle.
"We lost Owen six minutes into our game at Northeast Tuesday," said Rudd, whose Gophers rolled 49-27 over the Eagles (1-9, 0-5).
"He came down on another kid's foot, and we feared he broke it. I'm not sure if he will able to play against Meade. They [Meade] are very good, but we'll give it our best shot."
On the private schools scene, top-ranked Archbishop Spalding (13-2) hosts No. 4 Towson Catholic (11-3) at 8 tonight, and No. 5 Calvert Hall (10-4) at 3: 30 p.m. Sunday in two big Catholic League games.
With four Catholic League teams (No. 9 St. Frances is the other) in The Sun's top 10, there are few breathers.
After Spalding's 75-71 victory over Hagerstown's St. Maria Goretti Saturday, the Cavs' 7-foot center Derrick Goode put things in perspective.
"It's a big win, but we've got a long way to go," said Goode.
Make it 49 girls
St. Mary's coach Harry Dobson called the 24-hour Sportsline to advise us that one of his girls was left out of yesterday's Sidelines on the all-time girls basketball career scorers.
When Maria Smear (990 points) reaches the 1,000-point plateau, she will become the 49th overall in county history and the sixth Saint to do it. The Sportsline record book showed 1990 grad Laura Coakley, who was injured her final season, finishing with 998 points.
In fact, Dobson said, the 6-foot Coakley, who received a full basketball scholarship to Wake Forest, scored 1,001 points.
That means the Saints will have six players in the 1,000 club when Smear gets there to tie six-time state champion Brooklyn Park for the most entries in county annals.
Meade's Angie Creek also cracked 1,000 this season. With 1,179 points, Creek is in position to move into the top 20.
Spalding coach Tony Martin was nearly a casualty for tonight's game. The Cavaliers coach slipped on the ice Thursday morning while walking to his newspaper box.
"It was a pretty good fall," said Martin. "We had to call an ambulance to take me to the hospital, but everything is OK, and I'll be there [tonight]."
Before the Old Mill-Glen Burnie game on Jan. 5, Gophers coach Mike Rudd asked fans to bow their heads in a moment of silence for band director Tony Watkins. Watkins, 29, died unexpectedly on Jan. 2.
"It was shocking, only 29 years old," said Rudd. "The kids loved him and will really miss him. If you noticed, we have a pep band at our games this year, and it's really pumped up school spirit. Tony started the pep band."
Broadneck will honor Kurtis Brooks, the school's fifth all-time leading scorer (937 points), before Tuesday night's 7: 15 tipoff with Old Mill. Brooks led the county in scoring in the two years he played, including a 26.9 average in 1983-84, the fourth best in county history. He will receive a banner with his name on it, and it will be raised to the rafters in the Bruins' house.
Have a note for Sidelines? Call Pat O'Malley's 24-hour Sportsline at 410-647-2499.
Pub Date: 1/15/99