Wilde Lake's boys basketball team likes to think of itself as a group of warriors.
The Wildecats even have camouflage warm-up jerseys that they wear for motivation before big games.
Yesterday, they wore those jerseys for only the second time this season. Then they went out and played like warriors to defeat visiting River Hill, 61-50. The Hawks began the day in a three-way tie for first place.
The victory kept alive Wilde Lake's hopes for a county title. The Wildecats (13-5 overall, 11-5 league), who have won just one county title in school history, trail league-leading Atholton and Long Reach by two games in the loss column.
"This is the first time in my three years on varsity that we've beaten River Hill," said Brandon Graham, Wilde Lake's leading scorer with 15 points. "It's the first big three team we've beaten this season, so it was a huge win and a confidence booster."
Wildecats coach Phil Chenier came up with the idea for the shirts because so many Wilde Lake fans were wearing them.
"It's sort of a Generation X thing. They like to be different. It boosts school spirit. And green and gold are our colors anyway," Chenier said. "The only other time we wore the shirts we lost to Atholton, so I'm not sure yet if they're helping us or hurting us."
An 11-point Wilde Lake run early in the third quarter broke open what had been a close game and gave the Wildecats a 38-25 lead.
Sean Howard scored five of those points and sparked the Wildecats overall with 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists. He also helped out in defending River Hill's outstanding point guard, Richie Jackson, who was held to five points.
"Our backcourt with Howard and Steve Bacon has been phenomenal," said Chenier. "They have grown up and matured this season."
Bacon scored 11 points and had three rebounds. River Hill (12-4, 12-4) has tailspinned since losing starting center Ben Nowak for the season for disciplinary reasons. The Hawks, who beat Wilde Lake by 10 points the first time the teams played, have lost three of their past four games.
River Hill, however, rallied to close to 44-41 in the fourth quarter on Kyle Sullivan's three-pointer. But Wilde Lake scored the next seven points.
Junior guard Ben Hostetler scored 13 points and had 10 rebounds for the Hawks. Rogers Barnes scored 14 points and had seven rebounds.