Mt. Hebron kept a slim, but comfortable, lead over Long Reach until the very end of the game. That's when the Lightning struck.

"We're a second-half team," said Alexis Briscoe after Long Reach's 51-48 victory over Mt. Hebron Monday night.

Long Reach has also beaten Centennial, Marriotts Ridge and Reservoir in the closing moments.

"We tend to play better in crunch time," said Imani Sanders. She scored the last six points of the game.

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Mt. Hebron led, 48-43, with 1:19 left in the game.

The Vikings' Talhia Tavia made a basket in the lane that would have padded her team's cushion, but the officials decided that she had traveled, which disallowed the basket.

Thirteen seconds later Long Reach's Olivia Callan's lay-up drew the Lightning closer (48-45). Then things got a little crazy.

Mt. Hebron missed a shot and Long Reach sophomore Sanders grabbed the rebound and raced up the court to score.

The Lightning then stole the ball and Sanders got fouled on a 3-point shot. She made her first two free throws and had the ball in her hands for her third shot, when Mt. Hebron was awarded a time out.

"They tried to ice me," she said.

It didn't work.

Sanders hit her third free throw, putting Long Reach up, 50-48, with 23.4 left to play. It was the Lightning's first lead of the half.

The Long Reach defense denied Mt. Hebron a good look at the basket. Kelly Jones' 3-point shot missed and Long Reach got the ball back.

Long Reach's defense keyed on Jones in the second half. Although she had four 3-pointers and a game-high 18 points, she had nothing in the fourth quarter.

With time running out, Sanders was fouled again, this time making just one of her two shots, but that was enough to clinch the victory.

Long Reach (8-4 overall) already has more victories than it has posted since the 2005-06 season when the team went 9-14 overall.

"We're finally finding ourselves this year. We have a lot of girls who have played together in the past year and that has given us more confidence," said coach Kelli Cofield. "You've seen Long Reach in the past and people weren't giving us that respect. Now our girls are coming out and saying that we can play with teams. They're excited. They've tasted victory and they like the way it tastes."

"We're a lot more motivated to win," said Briscoe. "We aren't afraid to get down and dirty when we need to get down and dirty."

Long Reach has more confidence than it has in years, and the players are working well together.

"We know what each other is capable of," said Sanders, who controls the pace of the game. "People are actually recognizing us as a better team than before."