It took until the fourth quarter, but Atholton finally managed to separate itself from Howard Thursday evening.
Starting the final period with a 6-0 run, the Raiders opened up their first double-digit advantage of the game and rode that cushion the rest of the way to earn a 57-45 victory on senior night.
“For us it came down to defense and rebounding,” said senior Kyle Courtney, who led the way for the Raiders with 15 points and 7 rebounds. “We sharpened those things up at the beginning of the fourth quarter and that made the difference.”
After never leading by more than seven points through the first three quarters, Atholton coach Jared Albert said he had been waiting for a run like that all evening.
“Separation in a game like that is huge,” he said. “I thought we did a real nice job of putting a few nice possessions in a row together, taking care of the basketball and rebounding.”
In addition to Courtney, Atholton (8-9, 10-10) also got big nights from Justin Ballmer (11 points) and Ethan Shaprio (8). Overall, nine different players scored for the Raiders.
Howard (2-15, 3-17), which suffered its eighth straight defeat, was led by Jake Crisco (12), Mike Anderson (9) and Duke Bartnik (9) in the loss.
Anderson hit a three-pointer in the opening minute to give the Lions an early lead, but Atholton quickly answered with an 8-0 spurt to surge ahead. Courtney scored six of the Raiders’ points during the run and said the pre-game festivities had him ready to go from the opening tip.
“It’s always exciting on senior night, you’ve got the crowd, the family and everything. You come out pretty pumped and ready to show out,” Courtney said.
Atholton never trailed the rest of the game, although Howard kept itself close through the end of the third quarter. The Lions were tied at the end of the first quarter, down just two at the half and were within three points with a minute to go in the third period.
But every time Howard got close, Atholton made a play or two to keep the visiting Lions at arms length.
“We couldn’t get that bucket we needed to really grab the momentum and that’s kind of been our story all year,” Howard coach Matt Jens said. “The effort is there. There are just too many turnovers and unintelligent basketball plays that kill us.”
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Ballmer made a jumper and then Cole Mason and Dominic Bernetti coverted back-to-back lay-ups to put Atholton up 41-29.
Over the final six minutes, Howard never got closer than seven points.
With the playoffs on the horizon, Atholton is hoping this is the start of an end-of-the-year push.
“It’s time to get some momentum rolling and sharpen up our skills,” Courtney said. “We’ve been really close, now it’s time to put it together.”
Atholton 57, Howard 45
A (8-9, 10-10): Courtney 15, Ballmer 11, Shapiro 8, D. Bernetti 7, Mason 7, M. Bernetti 4, Casey 2, Florenzo 2, Brickous 1.
Ho (2-15, 3-17): Crisco 12, Anderson 9, D. Bartnik 9, Binkley 8, Seeley 4, Noble 2, Savage 1.
Half: 21-19 A.