Long Reach's hopes for its first county girls basketball championship were dealt a severe blow over the weekend.
Not only did the No. 13 Lightning (15-2, 13-2) slip a half-game behind No. 6 and league leader River Hill (15-1, 13-1) after dropping a 46-42 decision to Centennial on Saturday, but Long Reach may be without senior forward Whitney Ward for the rest of the season.
The George Mason-bound Ward, who is averaging 12.9 points a game this season, injured her left knee during Wednesday's 14-point setback to River Hill - a loss that ended the Lightning's season-opening winning streak at 15 games.
The concern is that Ward may have torn or strained the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee - an injury that would likely require surgery and end her senior season.
But Ward, who tore the ACL in her right knee the summer before her freshman season, said the current injury feels different.
"It felt the same when I hurt it, but when I hurt it in the eighth grade, I had full mobility [of the knee] the very next day," she said. "I don't have that now. ... I'm hoping that everything will be all right."
Ward, who underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam Friday and won't get the results until today, said elevating the knee and icing it all weekend reduced the swelling and soreness, but she still can't put too much weight on the knee.
Ward's absence figured in Long Reach's loss to Centennial, which attacked the Lightning's lack of presence in the lane.
The Eagles (8-8, 7-7) got 22 points, 11 rebounds, six steals and three assists from sophomore forward Brittany Kelley, who connected on 10 of 15 free throws.
Junior center Katie Barrett chipped in with 10 points and eight rebounds, and junior guard Lindsay Molesky (six rebounds and two steals) scored all four of her points to spark Centennial's game-ending 7-0 run with less than two minutes left.
The loss dropped Long Reach from a first-place tie with River Hill, which beat Oakland Mills, 72-35, last night.
"I guess [River Hill coach] Teresa Waters is going to send me flowers," joked Centennial coach Ed Holshue, whose players have missed a combined 22 games this winter. "We're trying to get the kids to buy into our philosophy, and the way to do that is to be successful. This very easily could be a portent of good things to come."
For at least a share of the county title, the Lightning must win its remaining five games and hope that the Hawks lose once over the next three weeks - a scenario coach Kevin Broadus hadn't envisioned.
"We didn't take care of business [Saturday]," he said. "Each game for us is going to be a dogfight now."
Carter heads to Reservoir
Fardan Carter, The Sun's Howard County Girls Coach of the Year in outdoor track and field last spring, has been hired to assist Sam Singleton at Reservoir this spring.
Carter, who guided Long Reach to its sixth consecutive county crown and fifth straight Class 3A East region championship last year, said he lost his head coaching position with the Lightning when a teacher within the school applied for the position.
Carter, in his second year as Long Reach's indoor track and field coach, held the outdoor position for one spring.
Carter, who is an assistant teacher in Long Reach's alternative education program, said he was somewhat miffed that Lightning athletic director Joe Thomas did not offer Carter an assistant coach's position, but that he looked forward to a new beginning with the Gators.
"I did my time at Long Reach, and it was fun," said Carter. "Basically, it's time to move on and help another group of athletes."
Thomas did not return several messages seeking comment.
At Reservoir, Carter rejoins his mentor Singleton, who coached Carter on the football and track teams at Oakland Mills.
"I think he'll be a big impact," said Gators athletic director Ken Klock. "Obviously, if you make coach of the year, you have something going for you. I think he and Coach Singleton will work well together."
In search of coaches
Several schools are seeking applicants for spring coaching positions.
Oakland Mills has vacancies for head coaching positions on its boys and girls lacrosse teams. Those interested in applying can call Scorpions athletic director Carol Satterwhite at 410-313-6953.
Reservoir is looking for a tennis coach. Applicants can call Klock at 410-888-8853.