A trio of boys basketball upsets last week threw the county race into a three-way tie among No. 16 Long Reach, River Hill and No. 20 Atholton and left the leaders scrutinizing their remaining schedules to see which team has an advantage.
With just five games to go in the season, Long Reach and Atholton have more favorable schedules than River Hill.
Playing on the road has proven to be extremely tough this season, and Long Reach (13-4 overall, 12-3 league) has only two away games left, and four of the last five games are against teams with losing records.
Atholton (12-5, 12-3) has three road games and faces four teams with losing records.
River Hill (12-3, 12-3) has four road games and will play Mount Hebron and Wilde Lake, which have winning records. They also play Centennial and Glenelg, which have been rejuvenated with the return of their centers from injuries.
The only remaining matchup among the three teams will be Feb. 19 when Atholton travels to Long Reach.
River Hill's gain
River Hill benefited the most from last week's three upsets, as Mount Hebron and Glenelg both defeated Atholton, and Centennial upended Long Reach.
The defending champion Vikings (9-6, 8-5), not yet eliminated from the race, began the string of upsets by knocking off Atholton at Mount Hebron on Wednesday, 53-38.
Mount Hebron's man-to-man defense held Atholton to its lowest scoring game of the season. The Vikings hit their free throws (17-for-22), rebounded well and received a big game from Jeff Morales, who stepped up after point guard Eric Wolven got into foul trouble. Morales was 9-for-10 at the foul line and scored 11 points.
"We've been playing good defense all season and against Atholton we hit a couple of shots," said coach Mike Linsenmeyer. "Effort is what gets us by. I've never had a team work as hard as this one. We needed to beat one of the big boys, and I couldn't be happier. This was a huge win. We're maturing."
Glenelg (6-11, 6-9) also made the most of a home-court advantage to upset Atholton on Saturday, 49-42. It was Glenelg's fourth straight victory after an 11-game losing streak.
Much of the credit for the turnaround belongs to Dallas Davidson's return from an injury. Glenelg has won four of five since his return; the only loss was to Centennial in overtime, 49-48.
Davidson, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound center, scored 15 points, had 12 rebounds and six blocked shots against Centennial.
He scored 13 points, had four rebounds and five blocks while playing only a half in a 61-25 drubbing of Reservoir.
Against Hammond, a game the Gladiators won, 52-41, Davidson had 18 points and five rebounds.
Then he had 18 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks in a 60-50 win over Howard while shooting 6-for-12 from the field.
His performance against Atholton was equally devastating with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks while going 6-for-10 from the field.
"We've been playing well defensively," said coach Jeremy Snyder. "Only Howard shot above 30 percent from the floor against us and that was because they scored off a lot of steals in the first quarter when they were 10-for-13. The rest of the game they were 8-for-40.
Nine of Glenelg's 11 losses were by eight or fewer points.
And Centennial enjoyed its finest moment of a 6-8 league season by defeating a stunned Long Reach, 63-58.
Long Reach gets help
Long Reach was fresh off an important Wednesday victory over River Hill when it played at Centennial Saturday.
The return of 6-3 sophomore center Chris Moore was a key to Centennial's victory. He was playing just his fourth game since breaking his wrist the second game of the season. Centennial has won three of those four.
Steve Seh is also fully healthy after nursing an ankle sprain.
"We're just able to be more competitive now," said Eagles coach Jim Hill. "Moore leads our team in blocked shots and he's only played six games."
Long Reach trailed by as many as 17 points before rallying to trail by five points heading into the fourth quarter.
Key games this week include River Hill at Wilde Lake and Long Reach at Glenelg tonight, and Howard at Atholton Thursday night.