There was more on the line Friday night than just bragging rights when Howard went on the road to face Reservoir. The winner would leave the contest with sole possession of second place in the county.
It was a tight, back-and-forth game for three quarters before the Lions caught fire and were able to pull away in the fourth. Howard held the Gators without a field goal over the final eight minutes to claim a 43-30 victory.
“I thought that we hit some big shots (in the fourth),” Lions coach Scott Robinson said. “Reservoir is a good team. I know yesterday (against Mt. Hebron) they weren’t at full strength and today they were. There is a lot of parity in our league. They were undefeated with that lineup and this was a good win for us. I have a lot of respect for them.”
Sophomore Jayda Gilmore scored a game-high 18 points and junior Sydney Biniak added 10 points and eight rebounds to help Howard improve to 6-1 in the county. Junior Zelor Massaquoi finished with 15 points and eight boards for Reservoir, which dropped its second contest in as many days.
“This was a really big game since we both had one (in county) loss and we really wanted it bad,” Gilmore said. “We prepared really hard as usual and did what we had to win.”
The contest was a seesaw battle entering the fourth with six ties and nine lead changes. Neither team could separate from the other, as the Lions were ahead by a slim two-point margin, 28-26, to start to final quarter.
Howard, however, would find the space it would need to pull ahead over the last eight minutes.
Biniak nailed a jumper to open the frame, then Berit Batterton and Biniak each got behind the defense on successive backdoor cuts for easy layups in a quick 6-0 run.
Junior Keri Rager cut the Gators’ deficit to 34-29 after making two free throws in a double bonus situation with 3:34 remaining. But Reservoir would score just one more point to rest of the way.
Gilmore and Anne Kinsey hit back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead to 11 points and Howard never looked back.
“Those shots really helped to give us a cushion and made us feel a little more secure,” Kinsey said. “We’ve formed a rivalry over the years with Reservoir. Our team played really hard and this was a great win.”
In the fourth quarter, the Gators were held without a field goal and went 4 for 12 from the foul line. Reservoir struggled at the charity stripe all game, finishing with a 12 for 26 mark.
“We didn’t match their intensity,” Gators coach Kyle Sullivan said. “We had some let downs. There would be spurts of two or three good plays in a row, then we would give up two or three easy buckets to them. There were defensive breakdowns here and there, and those little things make a big difference.”
Howard returns to the floor on Monday when it will host River Hill, which is unbeaten in the county with a 7-0 record, for another crucial county game that will impact the standings.
“That is going to be a big game considering we lost to them in the regional finals last year,” Kinsey said. “We’re definitely going to come out ready to play.”
Ho: Biniak 8, Kinsey 6, Batterton 5.
Re: Johnson 9, Massaquoi 8, Bonner 5.