To Winters Mill boys basketball coach Dave Herman, earning a spot in Friday's Class 2A state semifinals wasn't just about striking a blow for the four-year-old Westminster school.
It also was about improving the reputation of the county's oft-maligned basketball program.
"I wanted so bad for these kids to be able to experience something really, really special, but what I like about this is that it's really good for Carroll County basketball in general," Herman said. "For a long time, Carroll County basketball has been [lightly regarded]. I think this shows that there is good basketball out here."
When the Falcons (23-2) take on Wicomico at 9 p.m. Friday at Maryland's Comcast Center, it will mark the first appearance in the state semifinals for a county team since South Carroll in 2002, and just the second in the past 17 years.
Though there have been several teams worthy of advancing to College Park over the years, Herman knows it also takes a little bit of luck.
"We told them, 'To get to this point, you've got to have some breaks. You can be a really good team and not get there,' " Herman said. "I knew always that they had the heart to do something like this, but whether the ball bounced our way ... "
On Friday, the Falcons will probably need some of that luck against a longtime Eastern Shore power that has advanced to the state semifinals 17 times.
Wicomico features a pair of prolific scorers in forward A.J. Spencer and guard Josh Bright. The pair combined to score 49 points in a blowout win over Joppatowne in the regional semifinals and 51 in the finals against Easton.
The pair, along with sophomore center Bryan Miles, helped Wicomico out-rebound the Warriors, 48-19 - a statistic that may cause some trepidation for the smaller Falcons.
Herman said his team's perimeter shooting is critical, particularly against taller teams.
"We have to hit some outside shots," he said. "We don't have to be on fire, but if we don't shoot well from the outside at all, we're in a little trouble."
That wasn't a problem Saturday, when the Falcons went 8-for-14 from beyond the three-point line, including three each from Jimmy Dorsey and Matt Deane, in their 69-63 win over Middletown in the regional final.
Second to none
With five wrestlers finishing in the top six of their weight classes, county champion North Carroll was the runner-up at last weekend's Class 4A-3A state tournament at Maryland's Cole Field House. It was the best showing of a county team at states since South Carroll also took second in 2001.
"We were pretty excited about how things turned out," Panthers coach Dave Dodson said. "The fact that we were able to place so many kids in the state and have it work out for us that way was pretty cool."
It marked the fourth time the Panthers have finished second in the state, and first since 1991. The last Carroll team to claim a state wrestling title was Westminster in 1986.
Leading the Panthers was 140-pounder Tyler Macleod, who claimed the county's lone individual state title by winning all four of his matches in the tournament, including an 8-3 decision over Northern of Calvert's Paul Carter in the finals.
North Carroll also scored points with Tom Goretsas (third at 125 pounds), Jeremy Seipp (fourth at 103), Zach Forbes (fifth at 145) and Robbie Bell (sixth at 135).
Grade "A" team
While South Carroll may not have finished among the county's top teams in indoor track this season, coach Rob Pennington can boast about one area in which the Cavaliers had few equals.
Pennington said that 38 of his 40 athletes, including the entire girls team, received school awards for attaining a 3.5 grade point average during the season.
"When 95 percent of your kids [achieve that], that's pretty special," Pennington said.
Pennington credited athletic director Jim Horn with helping facilitate communication between teachers and coaches. "So if we see someone slipping, we're able to say, 'OK, you need to go get some help,' " Pennington said. "That's what they're here for. The academics are more important, because sooner or later the athletics are going to wear out."