River Hill senior Alex Mitchell camped in front of Hammond's net in the final seconds of the Hawks' ice hockey game Monday, glancing over his shoulder, waiting.
With 1.3 seconds left, the wait was over. Mitchell redirected a pass to tie the game at 4 and secure the third and final spot in the Howard Conference playoffs for the Hawks. River Hill had trailed the entire game before Mitchell's third goal of the game.
"It was just confusion," said Mitchell, who hadn't had a hat trick since pee-wee hockey. "I was just standing in front of the goal, just waiting for the puck, just praying it would come to me, and when it did, I just hit it as hard as I could.
"I really didn't think it was going to come to me. I was praying it would. I was just hoping I wouldn't run out of time."
Time nearly ran out on River Hill's season as well. Needing at least a tie to beat out Centennial for the final playoff spot, the Hawks (5-2-2 overall, 4-2-2 Howard County) trailed 4-2 after two periods. Mitchell's second goal of the game narrowed the score to 4-3, and he won the draw with 11 seconds remaining to set up the winning tally.
"I told them it started today if we wanted to go to the playoffs. We had to come to play," River Hill Coach Paul Kelley said. "It took them a period and a half to get out of the funk, but they stopped playing around and played like a team."
Monday marked the first game since a penalty-marred win over Glenelg on Dec. 23 that River Hill had its full complement of players. Several were suspended for one game after more than 200 penalty minutes were assessed, and some for as many as three games, which included an 11-1 loss to Atholton.
Hammond was short-handed Monday and played much of the game with seven skaters. Two Hammond players had been suspended for the game and another received a game misconduct.
Atholton (8-0, 7-0) earned the top seed and a bye in the playoffs, which will begin next month. Second-seeded Howard (7-2, 6-2) will play River Hill.
Truly, a One-Girl Team
Glenelg Country's girls' indoor track team doesn't need a bus to travel to meets. When the Dragons arrived at the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex for the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland championships, it was just junior Laura Walls and two junior varsity boys who stepped out of Coach Trey Cassidy's car.
"I don't really think of it as a team," Walls said. "I do it for the competition with the other girls."
Walls finished fifth in the 1,600-meter race in 5 minutes 43 seconds and third in the 800 in 2:28 to wrap up Glenelg Country's first foray into indoor track. The school fielded an outdoor track team last year but even then didn't have enough girls to put together a relay team.
"The ones that want to do it, and stay in it, they will do it," Cassidy said. "Those that don't want to be committed to sticking it out through the winter, that's fine. Laura likes the opportunity to get out. She certainly feels lonely practicing, but when she gets the opportunity to race and race well, it's all worth it. I don't think she felt lonely at all [at the meet]."
Walls has begun recruiting other girls for the outdoor track team, if just for the luxury of fielding a relay team.
"I've never been able to run a relay," she said. "I think it would be fun. I never even held a baton before in a race. I think that would be cool."
Quinn Signs With Towson
Wilde Lake senior offensive lineman Colin Quinn became the first county football player to make plans to play Division I or I-AA football next season when he verbally committed to Towson University last week.
The 6-foot-5, 285-pound tackle chose Towson over Shepherd, West Virginia Wesleyan, and Connecticut when the Tigers offered him a scholarship that covered tuition.
"My goal is at least by my redshirt sophomore year that I will be starting. With my hard work and probably my determination, I can play by then," said Quinn, who helped pave the way for Wilde Lake's pair of 1,000-yard rushers this season.
Four to Join Hall of Fame
Four people will be inducted into the Howard County Women's Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday at Mount Hebron.
Atholton graduates Sherri Orlosky Haigh (volleyball, basketball) and Tammy McCarthy Marge (basketball), and Centennial graduate Kathy Tucci Smith (field hockey, softball, basketball) will join former Mount Hebron girls' lacrosse coach P.J. Kesmodel in the hall's newest class.
The induction ceremony will precede a game between Mount Hebron and Centennial at 7 p.m.