Midway through the first quarter, Howard coach Scott Robinson told Jayda Gilmore that he didn’t want to see any more “fancy stuff.” The sophomore guard had just turned the ball over after attempting an off-balanced shot.
“I knew that I was in foul trouble and I was really pressing to try and help my team,” Gilmore said. “So I just tried to forget all the pressure and everything that was going on, so I could play my game.”
Gilmore settled down and scored a team-high 18 points, and junior Sydney Biniak added 12 points and 10 rebounds to lift Howard to a 52-46 victory over two-time defending county champions Glenelg on Friday night.
All of the Lions’ defensive attention was set on last season’s county Player of the Year Emily Russo – and for good reason. Despite constantly facing double and triple-teams, the senior still managed to finish with a game-high 22 points, 13 rebounds, nine steals and five assists.
“Emily Russo is a tremendous player. She’s the best player to come through Howard County in years,” Robinson said. “So we just tried to do everything that we could to try and negate her points. She’s such a great player and still scored a lot.”
Russo’s supporting cast played well in spurts but had trouble with the Lions’ defensive pressure late in the second half. With several underclassmen in the rotation and few players who are battle test, the Gladiators struggled at times.
“We have some young kids and we’re going to have some growing pains,” Glenelg coach Don Beall said. “We were a little out of sync and it was no surprise what Howard did defensively. We weren’t very fluid today, but we’ll be okay.”
The Gladiators broke open a close game with an 8-0 run that included a 3-pointer by Russo and a bucket inside by Olivia Nowlin (10 points). During the run, Glenelg held Howard scoreless for six minutes to take an 18-10 lead in the second quarter.
A refocused Gilmore returned to the game and broke the drought – and the Gladiators’ zone – with back-to-back 3-pointers that pulled the Lions even at 19. Ally Forejt responded with a fast break layup and Nowlin drained a three to push Glenelg ahead 24-19 at halftime.
Howard opened the second half looking like a different team. The Lions went on an 11-4 run in which Gilmore accounted for seven points and Anne Kinsey went coast to coast for a layup. Emma Hoesman capped the run after she converted a steal into a layup to give Howard it’s first lead of the game, 30-28, with 4:55 left in the third.
“We let them go on a run at the end of the first half. We knew that if we let them go on runs like that it would be really hard to get back,” Biniak said. “So we wanted to come out strong in the second half and go on our own run.”
Howard began to pull away but Russo did all she could in the fourth quarter to bring her team back.
Trailing 43-38, the senior sparked an 8-0 run with three free throws and 3-pointer, and Forejt added two free throws, to put Glenelg back on top, 44-43, with 3:47 left in regulation.
On the next possession, Biniak was fouled on a drive to the basket and subsequently made two free throws to give Howard the lead back for good. Down the stretch, the Lions went 7 for 10 from the foul line to preserve the win.
“Glenelg is a very good; they’re a great shooting team,” Gilmore said. “But when we’re keeping our intensity up and we’re working together as a team, I feel like we can be unstoppable. We beat a great team tonight.”
Howard was able to pick up the big win in the season opener thanks to its defense, which limited the visiting Gladiators to just three second-half field goals.
“I think we turned up the defensive pressure in the second half,” Robinson said. “I’m really proud of the girls. We picked up the defensive intensity and rebounded well.”
Howard 52, Glenelg 46
G (0-1, 0-1): Russo 22, Nowlin 10, Forejt 6, Yuan 4, Doermann 3, Taylor 1.
H (1-0, 2-0): Gilmore 18, Biniak 12, Kinsey 9, Hoesman 7, Walls 3, Sims 2, DelCoco 1.