The feeling in the Mount Hebron locker room last night was quite different from a year ago, when the Vikings exited the Class 3A East regional boys basketball playoffs with a lopsided defeat.
This time, the Vikings had a reason to be proud of the way they played despite a 51-41 loss to Crossland of Prince George's County in a first-round game in Ellicott City.
"It's a lot different this year, because we lost to Friendly by more than 40 points last year, and this was such a close game," said Mount Hebron's Billy Martin, a senior forward. "This was definitely harder to deal with, knowing you'll never play another game of basketball."
Crossland's strength is its transition game, but for most of the game, the Vikings -- behind point guard Eric Wolven -- managed to dictate the deliberate tempo they desired, which kept them within striking distance of the more athletic Cavaliers.
"[The Vikings] were real patient and went real hard in the first half," said Crossland's second-year coach, Sam Harris, whose team didn't return a starter and lost its first seven games. "We knew we had to get it inside because they weren't as strong there."
The Cavaliers (12-10) have won 12 of their past 15 games, including close losses to Prince George's powers Gwynn Park and Friendly.
Mount Hebron (14-9), which also returned no starters, received a big performance from center Adam Maddock, a senior transfer from Seattle who scored 14 points and had 13 rebounds.
"He definitely kept them in the game," Harris said.
Maddock scored six points in the third quarter, when Crossland improved its 19-15 halftime lead to 30-23 heading into the final quarter.
Crossland led by 10 points with 2:33 to play, but Mount Hebron rallied to 43-38 with one minute left on a driving basket by Jay Morales (seven points) and a pair of free throws apiece by Wolven (nine points)and Maddock.
Mount Hebron was forced to foul, and the Cavaliers then made six free throws to pull away.
"This was a winnable game for us," Maddock said. "We missed some key rebounds, our shots wouldn't fall and we couldn't stop them on defense. Every time we got close, we'd miss a layup."
Mount Hebron shot only 30 percent from the field, and Crossland had a big edge at the foul line, shooting 17-for-33; the Vikings were 8-for-10.
"I don't think we could have done much more," said Vikings coach Mike Linsenmeyer. "Our shots just didn't fall. I'm happy with our effort. The kids didn't quit."