It may have been an anticlimactic finish, but it was certainly impressive.
Eighth-ranked Mount Hebron put the finishing touches on its first Howard County title since 1993 with a resounding 69-34 victory over Wilde Lake last night in Columbia.
Had the Vikings lost, they would have shared the league crown with No. 10 River Hill. And, there possibly could have been a three-way tie with No. 17 Centennial. But Mount Hebron (18-4, 15-3 league) quickly erased any doubt, running to a 26-9 lead after one quarter and a 42-13 halftime advantage.
Forward Kristen Waagbo scored a game-high 29 points on 14-for-19 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Thera Wolven added 18 points, three assists and three steals.
Mount Hebron shot 27-for-57 (47 percent) from the field in the opening three quarters to take a 62-21 lead.
"We didn't want to underestimate anybody," Wolven, a junior guard, said. "We wanted to play as hard as we could to make sure we won the county and didn't have to share it."
Wilde Lake (8-14, 6-12), which lost its third straight, played Mount Hebron tough in a 49-36 defeat on Jan. 16, giving a sliver of hope to River Hill and Centennial that it could possibly pull off an upset at home.
But last night, Wildecats coach Natalie Williams benched four of her five starters for disciplinary reasons and kept them out for most of the game.
By the time the starters entered - one sat the entire game - the outcome was no longer in doubt.
"As far as the championship, I thought about that, but I also thought about my team and what we needed to do," said Williams, who added that all four starters will return to the lineup when Wilde Lake plays host to River Hill Friday night at 7 in the opening round of the Class 3A East Region tournament. "I've had to draw a line. Players weren't listening. They just need to do what's expected of them, and they weren't necessarily doing that."
Mount Hebron cruised to a 29-point halftime lead thanks to Waagbo and Wolven, who combined for 37 of the Vikings' 42 points. After Wilde Lake led 5-4 early, Mount Hebron immediately responded with an 8-0 run and later reeled off 12 straight points on three occasions. After the final 12-0 run, Mount Hebron led 54-15 with 3:22 remaining in the third quarter.
"I know [Wilde Lake] wasn't at full strength, but our girls came out with a lot of intensity," Mount Hebron coach Scott Robinson said. "They were on a mission: to win the county championship. And they accomplished the mission. It's a tough league with six teams in the Top 20, and to win the league outright is a tremendous accomplishment by the girls."