Last winter, Wilde Lake center Lindsey Williams led all of Howard County with 80 blocked shots. In Thursday’s season-opener, the senior picked up right where she left off.
Behind Williams’ seven blocks, the visiting Wildecats defeated Oakland Mills, 54-49, earning coach Bob Cranford’s first victory since taking over the program.
“We have always been known as the underdog team,” said Williams, who also notched 17 points and five rebounds. “So we had to start the season off with a win. We had to.”
Sophomore guard Rachel Lazris also added 14 points for the Wildecats (1-0), who never once trailed in the contest.
“Consistency and continuity is everything,” Cranford said of his team’s performance. “We had to run the floor well, space ourselves out and be in the position we needed to be in at all times. They did a good job of that tonight.”
Though trailing throughout the game’s entirety, Oakland Mills (0-1) kept within striking distance for the majority of play. Tori Diggs led all scorers with 19 points, Kerrigan Awkward added 18 points and six rebounds, and Lauren Thompson had 10 points.
“I don’t think we played well,” said Scorpions coach Christina Hewitt. “We weren’t consistent. We showed glimpses, but we can’t go (point-for-point). It’s not going to work.”
In the first quarter, both teams kept the score tight, with Oakland Mills failing to surrender more than a five-point lead at any period.
But, by halftime, the score grew to 25-16 in favor of the Wildecats.
Cranford said he stressed playing the entire four quarters to his team, adding taht they had difficulty putting together a complete game in preseason up until Thursday night.
“The last two scrimmages we were up and down,” he said. “Tonight, I had to bring them back into range a few times, but they listened and played well.”
Late in the third quarter, the Scorpions cut their deficit to a four-point game. Timely free throws from Awkward — who made eight out of 10 from the line — kept her squad breathing.
In the final eight minutes, Oakland Mills had its best chance to pull ahead.
However, costly fouls kept Hewitt’s girls from gaining any momentum. In the fourth quarter alone, the Wildecats were sent to the charity stripe eight times.
With just three minutes to play, Wilde Lake clung to a four-point lead. That’s when Alyssa Bialek drew a foul in Oakland Mills territory and stepped to the line.
The Wildecats were in the double-bonus, and although the junior only converted on one of two attempts, it was enough to stifle any comeback the Scorpions could have mustered.
Following the loss, Hewitt said her team needed to work on playing as a unit, rather than relying on one girl to take control.
“I think Kerrigan was able to step up in the second half for us, which was key,” she said. “But we need to have other girls step up too.”
Controlling Williams was also an issue throughout the night for Oakland Mills. Many times, the Scorpions would get a girl in the paint with an uncontested shot, only then to see Williams and her long wingspan smack the ball away.
“She played a great game and she did what she was supposed to do in the middle,” said Hewitt.
The Wildecats get to celebrate a county victory, something that was only achieved three times last year.
Before his girls set foot on the court in regular season play, Cranford said it was his goal to change just about everything with Wilde Lake girls basketball.
While Williams may have called the win a “gut check,” Cranford said he expected a successful start, especially after watching a few practices and seeing the way his girls were learning the system.
“This is why we play,” he said.
WIlde Lake 54, Oakland Mills 49
WL (1-0): Williams 17, Lazris 10, Drury 9, Riley 6, Bialek 3, Corbett 3, Richardson 2.
OM (0-1): Diggs 19, Awkward 18, Thompson 10, Kerr 2.
Half: 25-16 WL.
Around the league:
Hammond 52, Coppin Academy 27
Ham (1-0): Cannon 17, Johnson 14, Wallace 12, Nole 4, Frekot 3.
Half: 29-16 Ham.
Centennial 44, Thomas Johnson 49
Cen (0-1): Brittany Anderson 12, Sara Downing 6, Alicia Hsieh 11, Anna Mitchell 10, Kimmy Eads 4, Mary Anderson 1.
Half: 22-18 TJ.
Marriotts Ridge 23, South Carroll 52
Taylor 7, Bergquist 5, Davey 5, Kerr 2.
Half: 25-16 SC.
Long Reach 36, High Point 26
Imani Sanders 15 pts, stl; Alana Ratliffe 4 pts, 5 reb; Katelyn Peterson 2 pts, 8 reb; Jaya Green 9 pts, 9 reb; Erin Engelbrectht 6 pts, 9 reb
Half: 19-12 LR.
Glenelg Country 31, Gersetll 15
Sabrina DeLeonibus 13, Mallory Pappas 11, Deja Hursey 3, Ka'Mari Robinson 3.
Half: 16-9 GCS.