Long Reach

Long Reach coach Kelli Cofield goes over a play during a timeout. The Lightning went on to lose to Franklin, 43-30. (Matt Owings / December 26, 2013)

Set to face Franklin High School in the first round of the Woodlawn Warriors Tournament, Long Reach girls basketball coach Kelli Cofield said her team relished the chance to play games outside of Howard County.

Getting the chance to see how the Lightning stacked up against other competition is important for the coach, especially with the playoffs right around the corner. On Thursday, the team found that there is still work to be done. 

Despite guards Jaya Green and Imani Sanders each registering 10 points for the Lightning (2-4 county, 3-5 overall), the Indians bumped Cofield’s squad, 43-30.

“Every game matters in terms of the fact that we’re just trying to get better,” the Lighting coach said. “We don’t normally see teams like Franklin in Howard County, but when we go to the playoffs, we don’t play against our normal teams. This tournament is always a good representation of what we see in the playoffs and it gives us some good things to work on.”

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Franklin, a team well-equipped with scorers from the outside, as well as in the paint, was led by Jordan McDowell and Blaire Ross, who each notched 11 points.

McDowell – whose 6’2 frame out-matched the entire Lightning roster – controlled the territory down low with 11 rebounds. Her stifling defense and ability to collect missed shots complemented McDowell’s nine points from beyond the arc nicely.

There aren’t many girls in Howard County with quite the same height as McDowell’s, but Cofield said her talent most closely mirrored that of Reservoir’s Zelor Massaquoi. And, though they don’t have one specific player that exhibits a similar style, the coach said the collective efforts of Centennial and Mt. Hebron’s top rebounders reminded her of Thursday’s opposing center as well.

Early in the opening quarter, the Indians played a tough defense that fooled Long Reach into turnovers and rushed shots.

Before halftime, nursing a deficit that had reached 11-3, the Lightning sprung into action, outscoring Franklin to pull within three at the half.

“They worked really hard to bring it back, and our zone match-ups seemed to work really well,” said Cofield.

Unfortunately for the purple and black, that comeback attempt went for naught, as a third quarter surge powered by back-to-back McDowell triples gave the Indians control once again.

By the final eight minutes, any run that the Lightning would conjure was squashed by inopportune fouls, as the Indians shot six of eight from the line in the fourth quarter alone.

Long Reach has a quick turnaround, as it will return to Woodlawn High School to face Eastern Tech at 9:30 a.m. Friday in what will be another chance for Cofield’s team to work out the kinks.

“Everyone makes the playoffs,” she said. “We’re just trying to correct our mistakes in time for February.”

Franklin 43, Long Reach 30

LR (2-4 county, 3-5 overall): Imani Sanders 10, Jeily Mata 2, Jaya Green 10, Alana Ratliffe 3, Gillian Engelbrecht 3, Katelyn Peterson 2

Franklin: Kendra Isaacs 7, Jordan McDowell 11, Mara Izzard 5, Cara Murphy 4, Ashley Downs 3, Sara Franklin 2, Blaire Ross 11

Half: 17-14, Indians.

Around the county:

Centennial struggles early, falters against Westminster