By the end of the game, everyone was feeling a bit of déjà vu. Friday night’s contest between Mt. Hebron and host Howard almost mirrored the team’s first matchup in early December.
The Lions again jumped out to a double-digit halftime lead before the Vikings rallied late in the fourth quarter. Howard won the first game by five points, and after holding off another late comeback attempt the Lions pulled out a close 42-37 victory.
“They got up on us just like the first game and we had to fight from behind,” Mt. Hebron coach Tony Bell said. “I take my hat off to our girls. They always fight and never quit. We might see them again in the playoffs.”
Howard (13-2, 16-2) maintained possession of second place in the county, tied with Reservoir, while Mt. Hebron (13-5, 11-4) lost for the first time in its last eight games.
“We definitely knew that we had to come out strong against them, especially because it’s really tight in the county race,” Lions center Sydney Biniak said. “We knew that it was going to be back-and-forth, so we needed to keep our momentum throughout the game.”
Howard’s duo of Biniak (14 points, nine rebounds) and guard Jayda Gilmore (13 points) were clicking early in the contest.
With their team trailing 7-4 late in the first quarter, the pair combined for 13 of 17 consecutive points scored by the Lions, who raced out to a 21-7 advantage with five minutes left in the second quarter.
“When Sydney gets into the post there really isn’t anything that anyone can do. When she’s in the post and doing work, it opens it up for us guards,” said Gilmore, who opened the second quarter with seven straight points. “If they come out on us, we can get it in to her. We really opened up the floor.”
Just as they had in the first meeting, the Vikings slowly clawed back into the game after trailing by as many as 15 points in the third quarter.
Megan Konig (team-high 12 points) sparked Mt. Hebron’s 10-2 spurt to close the third with two free throws. Meghan Doherty followed with an and-one, Konig drained a 3-pointer and Micky Bowen added a jumper to close the deficit to 32-25 entering the final eight minutes.
Olivia Williams – shooting for Peyton LeConte who was fouled hard the play before – knocked down two foul shots and Tianna Wallpher added another to make it 35-30.
But Howard was able to regain control with three buckets in a row. Gilmore found a cutting Anne Kinsey for a layup on an inbounds play, Biniak finished a put-back on her fifth offensive board and Jade Walls converted a layup.
The Vikings still had a chance late, however, as the Lions went 2-for-11 from the free throw line in the final quarter – including a stretch of 1-for-10 in the last 1:32 of play. But the offensive rebounding of Walls (11 boards) afforded Howard a chance to take some important time off the clock as they held on for the win.
“Mt. Hebron is a very good team,” Howard coach Scott Robinson said. “They’re really good in transition. We wanted to limit their transition points and we did that. They’re tough. … I thought we weathered the storm. ”
MH: LeConte 9, Crump 6, Stevens 5, O. Williams 5.
Ho: Walls 11, Biniak 9, Kinsey 5.
MH: Doherty 3, Wallpher 2.