Dayna Scott and her Southern teammates began this season with a dream, one that pictured them winning the Maryland Class B girls championship this month. To be sure, it's a vision shared by most contending basketball teams in the heat of summer league games and the drudgery of the early fall practices, but one with a slight twist.
Southern's players wouldn't have to strain their imaginations too hard to envision such a feat. In fact, they would have only to look back at the conclusions of the two previous seasons, in which the Bulldogs, relying on Scott and a full-court press, went straight to the top.
And, figured eight-year Coach Linda Kilpatrick at the season's start, if it worked twice already, why not use the same strategy once more? All she had to do was guard against overconfidence.
"We won two in a row before (1979 and 1980) and went into the next season with what people considered a sure bet. But we were knocked off in the final game," said Kilpatrick. "I use that example and tell them they have to work hard and get a little bit of luck."
Friday, at Catonsville Community College, the Bulldogs (22-2) will face another opportunity to become the first Maryland basketball team -- boys or girls -- to win a third straight state championship. Southern enters the state tournament coming off an impressive 69-44 victory over Northeast in the Class B, Region IV championship game last weekend. Scott scored 29 points in the final, putting her over the 2,000-point mark for her career.
Kilpatrick knew Southern had the ability to establish the record when it initially had the chance. So did Scott, who attended that 1981 loss as an eighth-grader.
Scott has a great deal of confidence in this year's team to accomplish the feat. "We have a lot of players back from last year," she said.
Kilpatrick said, "She is one of our captains this year and she is expected to be a team leader. But parallel to her personality, she does it by her actions."
Based on her performance in the last week of the regular season, it would appear that Scott is expected to outscore the other team, or at least duplicate its point production. She scored 36 points in a 77-36 victory over Queen Anne Feb. 19, and then, three nights later, overpowered South River, 75-33, with 10 rebounds, six assists and 33 points.
Performances such as that make opposing coaches glad that Scott will no longer be around to haunt them.
"It breaks my heart," said South River Coach Jim Morton with a laugh. "She is unstoppable, obviously the best in (Anne Arundel) county. She doesn't get rattled. One on one, I don't think anyone can stop her. She just breaks to the open spot on the floor."
Most of Scott's 25 points per game come from drives to the basket, many the final result of the Bulldogs' "buzzer-to-buzzer" press defense. Scott handles the ball well on the wing and is able to post up inside on shorter players despite her 5-foot-8 frame. In college, she expects to be a point guard, the position she played while starting for Southern as a freshman.
Part of the reason for Scott's success has been the lower level of competition in Southern Maryland, but she showed in the December IAABO tournament at Springbrook that she could dominate against a top-level team as well, scoring a season-high 43 points in a 78-67 loss to top-ranked H.D. Woodson.
"There is no doubt that she will help any college program," Kilpatrick said. "She could be a top-notch Divison I player."
College scouts agree, but academic demands will weigh heavily in her decision. George Mason is one of the schools being considered by Scott, who plans to study business administration.
But for now, Scott has her attention turned to the state championship.
"Everybody thinks we're going to win," Scott said. She then recalled her attitude after the Bulldogs took their second title last season. "I thought, 'Let's do it again.'"