The River Hill girls basketball team, which has won four straight county championships and captured its first Class 3A state title last season, finds itself in familiar territory with the regular season in its final week.
The path taken this winter, however, has been far different from recent years.
The Hawks' 36-35 win at Mount Hebron on Thursday typifies the scratch-and-claw identity of the team.
Trailing 31-23 after three quarters and still down by six with 2:20 to play, the Hawks got a put-back from Alicia Seelaus with two seconds left to edge the Vikings and put themselves in position for another county championship game appearance.
The Hawks (14-5 going into yesterday's game against Wilde Lake) went into the final week with a 13-3 county mark that had them tied with the Vikings (17-3 before yesterday's game at Centennial) in Division I with the regular season ending tomorrow. River Hill's two wins over Mount Hebron would give them the division title, if both teams end the season with the same record. In Division II, Atholton has secured a spot in Tuesday's county championship game.
After her Hawks went a combined 53-1 the previous two seasons with All-Metro guard Keisha Eaddy leading the way, coach Teresa Waters was not quite sure what to expect this season.
"We knew we would win some games, but we didn't know how many," Waters said. "The early season was a struggle for the kids to find their own identity. But it was exciting to see them continue to work hard and have the right mental approach."
Senior forward Kelsey Erdman (12.8 points, eight rebounds per game) has provided strong inside play, with Vanessa Collier averaging 11.7 points from the perimeter. Seelaus averages 7.7 points, and strong play and leadership also come from senior Allison Geoghan.
"They have some players that have been around, and they know how to win games," said Atholton coach Maureen Shacreaw, whose Raiders lost a one-point game to the Hawks this season. "They have good senior leadership, and it's been a chance for them to come out and play ... and they've done a good job."
In the boys race, Atholton (17-3, 14-2) entered the week with the Division II berth locked up, while River Hill and Long Reach were still battling for the top spot in Division I. Before yesterday's games, River Hill was 16-4 overall and 13-3 in league play, while defending county champion Long Reach was 13-7 and 12-4. The Lightning made things interesting with a 50-48 win over the Hawks on Feb. 6, getting 19 points from Keith Richardson.
Six wrestlers return to defend their county titles in this weekend's Howard County championship, set to start at 3 p.m. Friday and continue through Saturday.
Hammond senior Vince Taweel will look to become the program's second four-time county champion, matching the feat of 1997 graduate Josh Zillmer. Teammates Devon Gillett and Zach Halper, Glenelg's Dan Bichner, Atholton's Ryan Conroy and Wilde Lake's Zach Brown also claimed titles last season.
Glenelg, which won its first dual meet county title during the regular season, is the favorite to dethrone two-time champion Hammond. Along with Bichner, the Gladiators will look to Chris Stinnett, Brian Marcoux and Tim Chase. The Gladiators hope to rebound from a tough 37-26 loss to Rising Sun in the Class 2A-1A state dual meet championship semifinals over the weekend.