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.
Long Reach 44, River Hill 38
The Lightning held off a late push from River Hill to pick up the team’s sixth straight victory. Brian Green (14 points) and Jeremiah Hall (9 points, 12 rebounds) each had big games to lead Long Reach.
“It was a huge game for us, not only beating River Hill, but keeping our momentum going in the right direction with the regional playoffs right around the corner,” Long Reach coach Al Moraz Jr. said. “The guys are buying into what we’re teaching and the they’re stepping up.
River Hill, which bounced back from scoring just 10 points in the first half to actually take the lead late in the fourth quarter, was led by 14 points apiece from Charlie Thomas and Walt Moody.
LR (11-6, 13-7): Green 14, Brown 9, J. Hall 9, Neal 8, Allmond 2, Barr 2.
RH (14-3, 16-4): Moody 14, Thomas 14, Heitzmann 9, Titus 1.
Half: 19-10 LR.
Marriotts Ridge 59, Centennial 55
The Mustangs’ Robert Davis led all scorers with 21 points and the trio of Ryan Miller (10 points), Connor Delaney and Amir Najib combined to go 6-8 from the foul line in the final minute to seal the victory. Omari Ringgold was Centennial’s leading scorer with 15 points.
MR (): Davis 21, Miller 10, Caffes 6, Delaney 6, Willsey 6, Bennett 4, Bryant 2, Harrison 2, Najib 2.
C (): Ringgold 15, Conley 9, Eads 8, Tinuoye 7, Fletcher 7, Olmstead 6, Devries 3.
Half: 27-22 MR.
Oakland Mills 70, Glenelg 53
The Scorpions had six guys score eight or more points, led by Lavon Long (17 points), in a victory that kept them undefeated and clinched an outright county championship.
OM (17-0, 20-0): Long 17, Reyna 13, Dent 10, Williams 9, Willis 9, Bradley 8, Zayatz 4.
G (8-9, 9-11): Oates 12, Randle 9, Napolitano 8, Van de Wall 8, Haussler 6, Hammert 5, Helensky 3, Mirano 2.
Half: 34-13 OM.
Mt. Hebron 56, Wilde Lake 54
MH: Woodard 19, Bryant 15, M. Smith 13, Andreas 5, Trapuzzano 4.
WL: Calloway 14, K. Jackson 9, Groves 9, Robinson 8, Evans 7, D. Jackson 5, Matthews 2.