In a scene that could only be described as pure calamity, the final 20 seconds of Monday night's match-up between Howard and Reservoir girls basketball certainly lived up to its hype.
The teams traded turnovers, timeouts and fouls, and when Lions’ center Sydney Biniak missed a foul shot with just two seconds remaining, visiting Reservoir wasn’t left with enough time for one final prayer. The scoreboard struck zero and the Howard bench erupted in joy, as the Lions were able to hang on for the 30-28 victory.
“It was pretty hectic,” said Biniak after the win. “Anything could have happened. It wasn’t about scoring, and it wasn’t about defense. It was about willpower and who wanted it more.”
Junior Jada Gilmore had 11 points to lead the Lions (5-0) offensively. But, it was the solid play of Biniak, who scored seven points despite early foul trouble, as well as Anne Kinsey (5) and Berit Batterton (4) that was crucial to keep pace with Reservoir’s talented roster.
Powerful forward Zelor Massaquoi had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Gators (2-2), and point guard Keri Rager added five points as well.
Late in the fourth quarter, with the Gators poised to take advantage of a momentum push, Kinsey’s steal and cross-court drive to the hoop resulted in a foul and two points from the line. That transition set the next few seconds of insanity into motion.
With 20 seconds remaining, the Gators had possession of the ball and elected to take a timeout. Down just two points, the inbounds pass went to Danaysha Turner and then to Rager, who found an open Tara Thompson in the right corner. Thompson’s shot missed and the ball went out of bounds with 9.8 seconds remaining. After a jump ball, the possession arrow still favored the Lions.
Howard’s attempt to inbound the ball to midcourt was thwarted by Rager, who quickly stopped the clock with Reservoir’s final timeout.
With four seconds remaining, stout Howard defense kept the Gators from completing the inbounds pass within five seconds, forcing a turnover. Howard got the inbounds pass to Biniak, and with one foul to spare, Reservoir used it with three seconds left.
Howard’s second inbounds pass to Biniak, and subsequent hard foul, resulted in a roar from fans in the crowd who wanted it to be ruled flagrant.
Instead, Biniak went to the line, and after her miss, the game was over.
“I’m glad we saved all our timeouts. We needed all of them,” said Lions coach Scott Robinson after the game. “I thought our girls really persevered.”
In the first half, both teams traded shots and leads, with neither squad going ahead by more than two possessions. In the third quarter, both teams turned to defense for support. With both benches in foul trouble, Biniak said that was when she decided it was time to dig deep.
"The third quarter was frustrating because I was on the bench," she said. "I was in foul trouble and I knew when I came back out on the court, I just had to do the job."
Reservoir coach Kyle Sullivan declined to comment on the game, including the controversial final seconds.
These two teams will get a rematch on Feb. 4, when the Lions travel to Fulton in what could be an exciting game fraught with county championship implications.
Howard 30, Reservoir 28
Howard (5-0): Gilmore 11, Biniak 7, Kinsey 5, Batterton 4, Talley 2, Sims 1.
Reservoir (2-2): Massaquoi 17, Rager 5, Bonner 2, Tiller 2, Turner 2.
Half: 17-15 How.