Howard High School

Guard Emma Hoesman of Howard High School moves the ball up the court past the Liberty High School defense during their game on Dec. 27, 2013. (Matt Hazlett / December 27, 2013)

Over the course of the final seven minutes of Friday night’s matchup between undefeated Howard and visiting Liberty, senior Sydney Biniak said she never once doubted her team’s chances.

As soon as the home Lions began to feel the heat, a nine-point run would ultimately put the game away, giving Howard County’s top team a 57-48 victory in the opening round of the Howard Holiday Tournament.

“We just had to persevere through it and we just couldn’t take one play off,” said Biniak, who collected 12 points and eight boards in the winning effort. 

Entering Friday night’s game, Howard coach Scott Robinson knew the opponents from Carroll County were not to be taken lightly. After scouting them twice, it wasn’t a surprise when his team was tested early on.

“They are a darn good team. They’re tough because they had a good inside game to go with their outside shooting,” he said. “We just told (our girls) that we had to run our stuff…and we had to get out on their shooters.”

Though the Liberty Lions only connected on four 3-pointers in the game, the team shot jumpers from all over the floor for the majority of the first half. Center Anna Hresko’s 13 points – nine of which came in the second quarter alone – and nine rebounds in the paint complemented that outside shooting performance nicely.

In the second half, Robinson said his team made it a point to limit her play. That strategy, in turn, helped shift the defensive focus on the outside as well.

“I thought Sydney, Berit (Batterton) and Emileigh (Scott) did a good job of just denying her the ball,” he said. “We tried to really get up in the passing lanes and take the ball away from the shooters.”

Throughout the entirety of the game, both the teams traded points with neither squad taking more than a two possession lead until the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter, when Howard finally pulled away.

Liberty’s lone lead came in the second quarter, an eight-minute period where Howard allowed a game-high 16 points. 

In the end, Robinson said he was pleased with the way his squad fought back, adding that conditioning was a big part of the girls’ ability to respond well to adversity.

Howard will play Indian Creek on Saturday at 5 p.m. for a chance to win its home tournament.

Howard 57, Liberty 48

Howard (6-0 county, 7-0 overall) Emileigh Scott 10, Catherine Sims 7, Sydney Biniak 12, Berit Batterton 9, Jayda Gilmore 7, Anne Kinsey 7, Emma Hoseman 3, Natalie Talley 2.

Liberty: L. Johnson 11, Thompson 10, Hresko 13, Wolf 8, Barcikowski 4, Farley 1.

Half: 33-27 How.

Around the county:

Atholton takes down Wilde Lake for Springbrook tournament championship

With a chance to defeat a county foe and take home the Roberts Oxygen Holiday Classic championship trophy on Friday at Springbrook High School, Atholton’s team chemistry and stout defense took center stage.

Challenger Wilde Lake had no answer for junior guards Sage Mayhew and Chelsea Mitchell, who each scored in double-digits and showcased a well-balanced attack to lead the Raiders to an easy 53-26 victory.