Old Mill junior point guard Mike Holley is the ideal fit for the No. 9 Patriots' up-tempo game, getting the ball up the court in a hurry and making smart decisions with the ball.
Fellow junior guard Chris Day is always right there with him, beating the defense in transition and finding a spot to unleash a three-pointer.
Together, the backcourt duo has been the glue to the Patriots' front-running ways in Anne Arundel as they appear primed to defend their county championship.
"It's hard to get them rattled. They understand they can turn it on and score points pretty quickly. So if we ever have a bad quarter or bad stretch, they know they can get things rolling again, and it gives us a chance to be in every game," Old Mill coach Greg Smith said.
After last night's 81-43 victory over Southern, the Patriots are 16-1, including an 11-0 county mark that puts them two games in front of the rest of a deep pack. Holley went into last night averaging 15 points and 5.6 assists, while Day averages 14 points and 4.3 assists. Equally impressive is that forwards Marvin Pinkney (14 points) and Eric Savage (11 points) are also in double figures, showing that the talented backcourt also is sharing the ball.
Smith said a big key to the backcourt mates' success is the time the two had coming off the bench last season as sophomores.
"They were in some tight games, played in the county championship and through the playoffs to the regional final. That experience has really helped," Smith said.
In just five days, the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland basketball tournaments start, and several teams are lining up to be potential spoilers.
In the A Conference, No. 1 St. Frances is the six-time defending champ and is unbeaten in the conference going into tonight's 6 o'clock game at No. 4 Seton Keough. While those two will be the top two seeds for the tournament, a few others have been creeping up on them.
Last week, St. Frances left No. 9 Archbishop Spalding's gym with a 61-55 victory. Monday, the Gators barely got by No. 11 McDonogh, 40-38.
"Everybody is starting to rise to the occasion," Seton Keough coach Jackie Boswell said. Both teams needed time for adjustment because they have new coaches. Spalding has stayed in the top 10 all season, but the Eagles have come on strong in the past few weeks. Mercy, which pushed Seton Keough to overtime early in the season, could also pull off an upset.
In the B Conference, No. 10 St. Paul's appears in control - undefeated with one game left while everyone else has at least three losses - but another team with a new coach is on the rise. St. Mary's, with former Saint Terri Daniels at the helm, beat defending champ Severn last week, 35-34. Notre Dame Prep also could pull off an upset.
The tournaments begin Monday,with the finals Feb. 15 at Stevenson University: C Conference at 3 p.m., A Conference at 5 and C Conference at 7.
The Howard wrestling team won its first county match Thursday. The victory came against Long Reach, but winning wasn't the most significant thing about the match or the season.
Coach Sean Alkire said it's the perseverance his team has shown during a 6-27 season.
"Fifteen of our 30 wrestlers are freshmen," said Alkire, in his fourth year at Howard. "And only one of them ever wrestled before this season."
Alkire said every day with his team "is like the first day" because he, his staff and his seniors, including Kris Dutt, Aaron Gover-Smith and Steve Canterbury, are constantly teaching.
"We have a family atmosphere," Alkire said.
Tough road for Hebron
Mount Hebron girls lacrosse coach Brooke Kuhl-McClelland, whose Vikings hold the national record for most state championships with 14, said she expects her squad to be back in the hunt this season and has put together a rugged schedule to toughen her players.
"We've given up our traditional home tournament this season to go to New York April 18-19, for the first time," she said. "We're paying back the New York teams that have come here in the past. We've never had an easy schedule, but this season for the first time ever we're going to play two very good New York teams - Brighton and West Genesee - on the same day."