As expected, the race for the MVAL Antietam title appears to be wide-open with each team having played four of its 14 league contests through Wednesday.
Catoctin, North Hagerstown, Smithsburg and South Hagerstown are all 3-1 in league play to share first place, with Boonsboro a game back at 2-2.
The Hubs’ lone league loss came at Catoctin, 49-41, on Dec. 21. North also handed rival South its only league loss, rallying from an early deficit to defeat the Rebels 46-38 in the Hubs’ gym on Dec. 12.
Senior Iman Scott leads North with her 17.1 points per game. She scored 31 in an Antietam victory over Brunswick, and netted 30 of the Hubs’ 46 points in Tuesday’s league win at Williamsport.
The Leopards’ three league wins have come against Boonsboro, Williamsport (by one point) and Brunswick, while Smithsburg fell to South in a high-scoring affair on Tuesday.
Elisa Owens — who appears fully recovered from an ACL tear that left her at less than 100 percent last season — is averaging 17.8 points per game and erupted for 33 in the victory over Brunswick. Alexis Andrukat (12.8 points per game) has two double-digit assist games, and Danielle Harbaugh (10.0 points per game) has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in each of Smithsburg’s last two games.
The Rebels responded to their setback against North — in which leading scorer Tayana Stewart (18.1 points per game) was in foul trouble all game and finished with just two points — with league wins over Boonsboro, Williamsport and Smithsburg.
Stewart started her season with a 36-point outburst in a win over Tuscarora and has scored 20 or more points in three other games. Katrice Dickson (11.5 points per game) and Chelsea Scott (10.6 points per game) have also been productive as South has leaned on its three stellar sophomores.
Boonsboro lost its first two Antietam games against Smithsburg and South, then beat Clear Spring before scoring an upset victory over Catoctin, 54-47, on Tuesday. Ashlyn Hawbaker’s 10.0 points per game leads the Warriors, with Stephanie Pantos and Shannon O’Brien tied for second at 7.6 points per game.
* Several private school players have started the season fast.
It’s no surprise that Broadfording senior Katie Connolly — who went past the 1,000-points milestone last year as a junior — is lighting up the nets. She leads Washington County with her 22.1 points per game and has gone for more than 30 twice.
St. Maria Goretti sophomore Severija Narkute — an exchange student from Lithuania — has helped the Gaels start the season 8-4 by averaging 18.3 points per game on solid shooting percentages. She’s 63-for-110 (57.3 percent) from 2-point range and 25-for-56 (44.6 percent) from 3-point range.
Grace Academy senior Kelsey Koontz has been a consistent double-double threat for the Knights, averaging 16.0 points and 12.0 rebounds per game.
Heritage Academy senior Rachel Clarke has helped lead the Eagles to a 6-0 start. She’s averaging 14.5 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. Fellow seniors Jessica Gaylor (12.2 points per game) and Callie Butts (11.3 points per game) have given Clarke plenty of scoring help.
* Heritage has outscored its six opponents 359-176. The Eagles’ defense specializes in grand larceny, with four players averaging more than four steals a game (Kathleen Kidd at 6.0, Butts and Clarke at 5.0 each and Gaylor at 4.5). Butts (7.2 assists) and Kidd (5.3 assists) also shred opponents on the offensive end.
The featured game on the MVAL Antietam docket next week comes Wednesday when South Hagerstown visits reeling Clear Spring.
South took over sole possession of first place in the league with a 4-0 record with a win over Smithsburg (4-1) on Tuesday, while Brunswick beat Clear Spring to drop the Blazers to 3-1.
The Rebels have defeated the Blazers in the teams’ last three meetings.
* The beat goes on at St. Maria Goretti, where the Gaels continue to try to fight off a Baltimore Catholic League losing streak that currently stands at 47 games.
The Gaels are at Mount Carmel tonight, then return home for the only Sunday game in Hagerstown this season as they host Loyola Blakefield.
Goretti has lost to Loyola seven straight times during the losing streak and 11 straight times overall, the last win coming Feb. 10, 2005 in a 58-54 decision.
* Clear Spring raced to a 7-0 record to begin the season before losing recently to Southern Fulton and Brunswick. The 7-0 start was the best for a Blazers team since they started 6-0 in 2003-04, when they finished 18-6.
In 2008-09, Clear Spring started 7-1 and ended 16-7.
* Four Tri-State schools are putting up offensive numbers at a good clip.
Through seven games, Martinsburg is averaging 82.6 points per game, Hedgesville is at 71.9, Greencastle is at 71.0 and Saint James is at 69.8. The first three schools are unbeaten.
* How tough is it for one player to score in double figures in every game his team has played? Around the Tri-State, there have been only three players who have accomplished that feat so far — Greencastle’s Denver Cordell (nine games), Hedgesville’s Q.J. Peterson (eight) and Southern Fulton’s Nick Smartt (seven).
Indoor Track & Field
The new year begins with the championship season indoors, starting with the Monocacy Valley Athletic League’s conference meets at Hagerstown Community College.
The MVAL Antietam (small-school) championships will be held this evening at 5, while the MVAL Piedmont (large-school) championships are set for Saturday at 1 p.m.
Boonsboro, Clear Spring, Smithsburg and Williamsport are in the Antietam, while North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown are in the Piedmont.
Local athletes to watch this evening include Boonsboro senior J.R. Lowery, who is ranked eighth nationally by dyestat.com this season in the boys shot put at 55 feet, 2 1/2 inches; Williamsport senior Evan Hardy, who is ranked 19th in the country in the boys 1,600-meter run at 4:27.67; and Boonsboro’s Abby Duncan, who is tied for 53rd in the U.S. in the girls 55 dash at 7.40 seconds.
Eleven teams from three states are set to compete at the 39th annual Jefferson Invitational Tournament, including Berkeley Springs, Hedgesville, Martinsburg and host Jefferson.
The tournament begins today at 5 p.m. and concludes with the championship finals at 4 p.m. Saturday.
— This week’s prep notebook was compiled by assistant editor Andrew Mason and staff writers Dan Kauffman and Tim Koelble.