Tom Albright has accomplished much as the coach of Southern of Harwood's boys basketball team, but one achievement has eluded him.
Albright is No. 1 on the list for seasons coached (38) in Anne Arundel County - regardless of the sport - and has won the most boys state basketball titles (four) in county history.
The only thing that has escaped him is putting a team on the floor in a county championship game.
Since the game pitting the top two finishers over the 16-game league schedule began in the 1995-96 season, Southern has missed out.
But its chances of earning a spot in the Feb. 25 game at Chesapeake are looking good after an 0-2 start in the league that included a 66-65 loss at Broadneck.
Since that loss, the 16th-ranked Bulldogs have run off nine wins in a row, including Tuesday's 71-61 victory over No. 20 Old Mill (11-6 overall, 8-3 in the county league).
That gave Southern (12-5, 9-2) sole possession of second place behind four-time defending county champion and No. 5 Annapolis (16-1, 11-0).
"It's our goal to win the county championship, and it's our goal to win every single game from here on out," said 6-foot-6 senior Adrian Gross, who had 14 points and a county season-high 26 rebounds against Old Mill.
So what turned it around?
"We realized that when we play together, nobody can hardly beat us," said Gross. "We've got more unity on the team now and it's all the difference."
Annapolis has 71 consecutive league wins, including an 85-59 rout of Southern in December in the league opener for both teams.
Three of Southern's five remaining league games are at home, including a Feb. 14 rematch with Annapolis.
No. 17 Glen Burnie (12-4, 7-4), a 66-57 loser to Southern last week, and Severna Park (10-7, 8-4), which visits Southern for the last game, on Feb. 21, are right behind.
The drawing for the state basketball playoffs is Feb. 23, and schools are jockeying for position.
For county teams, the top four seeds draw first-round byes. Seeding is based on regular-season winning percentage, not including holiday tournament or league championship games.
In Class 2A South, Southern is on track for one of the four seeds with its 10-4 record in games that count. Annapolis, at 14-1, is holding down the second seed in 3A East behind unbeaten Friendly of Prince George's County.
Glen Burnie at 10-4 is third in the 4A East behind No. 1 Thomas Johnson (14-0) and Frederick (11-4). Old Mill (10-5) is fourth.
"This was a big game for us for second place in the county, but now we have to carry the momentum into the region, " said Old Mill coach Greg Smith after his team's 10-point loss at Southern Tuesday.
"We've got to start focusing on the region because half the county is not in our region."
The county's eight 4A teams - Glen Burnie, Old Mill, Arundel, Broadneck, Chesapeake, Meade, South River and North County - plus Thomas Johnson, Frederick, C. Milton Wright and Westminster comprise the region.
Southern's Gross has a chance to become the first county basketball player to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds in his career. "Adrian should reach 1,000 points over the next couple games, but we would have to go deep in the playoffs for him to get to 1,000 in rebounds," said Albright, who didn't have the exact numbers. ... Glen Burnie bounced back from its 78-64 loss to Annapolis on Monday with a 68-64 win over North County (7-9, 4-7) Tuesday. Brandon Gilbert, a 6-7, 330-pound junior, had 15 points coming off an 11-point, 11-rebound effort against Annapolis. "Albert moves exceptionally well for a big man. "His problem right now is his conditioning, " said Gophers coach Mike Rudd. "He missed two weeks with a bad knee." ... . Andrew Walther of Gambrills, who plays baseball at DeMatha, has orally committed to Columbia University.
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