This season, Howard girls basketball coach Scott Robinson has never seen his girls quit.
Losing back-to-back games against fierce county competition after opening the season on a 12-game undefeated tear could have shaken his girls' resolve, but it didn't.
Back in the driver’s seat of a modest two-game win streak after Thursday night’s 51-42 victory at Atholton, Robinson said his squad is as resilient as they come.
“This is just an unbelievable group of girls,” said the veteran coach, whose Lions (11-2, 14-2) defeated the Raiders (9-5, 11-5) for the second time this season. “The chemistry was always good. I’ve got great senior leadership. They are smart.”
Thursday’s match-up with the Raiders couldn’t have come at a better time for both teams. Howard, fresh off a win the previous night against Hammond, was looking for another quality victory in league play.
For Atholton, a win against the Lions could have cemented its case for a county title.
Lions junior Jayda Gilmore had other ideas.
When she wasn’t weaving her way through defenders in the paint, Gilmore was setting up for a pair of crucial 3-pointers in the third quarter to give her team its sizable lead.
“We hit a lot of their weak points, and went out strong in the fourth quarter as well,” said Gilmore, who notched a game-high 18 points on the night. “Hopefully this win will boost us up for the rest of the season. We were on a bit of a losing streak, but I think this can get us back in the groove.”
Aiding the junior sharpshooter included eight points from center Sydney Biniak, as well as six points from Natalie Talley, Emileigh Scott and Emma Hoesman.
Throughout the contest, Howard controlled the tempo. Atholton got into early foul trouble, which Raiders coach Julia Reynold said made it difficult to get into a rhythm.
“People had to be ready to go, and that’s why you have a team there,” she said. “Different people had to step up and be ready. The kids were up to the challenge, and we made adjustments as we went on.”
Early in the first quarter, Howard got off to a fast start thanks to four quick points from Gilmore and forward Berit Batterton.
Just before Atholton fell too far behind, senior Margaret Tatum (15 points on the day) went on a seven-point clip, closing out the quarter with her squad ahead by one.
It wasn’t long after the second quarter began that Howard began to take over. The Lions went to the line six times in those eight minutes, taking advantage of the free chances the Raiders made available to them.
Toward the end of the first half, Howard built a sizable advantage, but it wasn’t until after the break that Gilmore, Emma Hoesman and co. really put their skills on display.
“I thought particularly in the third quarter we moved the ball well,” Robinson said. “We were very unselfish. We had the open shooter and we hit our shots.”
Outscoring the Raiders 21-13 in the third quarter alone, Gilmore’s eight-point effort was nearly matched by Hoesman, who scored her only points of the game on two shots from behind the arc in that time.
In the fourth quarter, Howard failed to record a basket from the field, registering just four points from the line. The Raiders had a chance to mount a comeback, but had just as much trouble finding the net for the first few minutes. In the closing stages of the game, Chelsea Mitchell (17 points) put together a small scoring flurry to get her team within 10 points. While the junior guard cut into Howard’s lead, it still wasn’t enough.
“Atholton is a good team. The key was that they are very difficult to defend,” Robinson added. “They have good shooters and they have an inside game. Jayda gave us a huge lift in the first half when we were struggling to score. She had some big buckets that really helped us.”
With two wins against Atholton under their belt, the Lions now shift their focus to Oakland Mills on Friday, as well as a full schedule next week. Saying his team will enjoy this victory for the moment, Robinson knows his girls’ determination is enough to stay motivated for the remainder of the regular season.
Gilmore’s attitude following the win only further echoed that sentiment.
“Seeing that score, and seeing you’re up is comforting, but it doesn’t make you relax. It makes you keep going,” she said. “We lost some tough games, but now it makes us want to go even harder.”
Howard 51, Atholton 42
How: Jayda Gilmore 18, Sydney Biniak 8, Natalie Talley 6, Emileigh Scott 6, Emma Hoesman 6, Berit Batterton 4, Anne Kinsey 2, Catherine Sims 1.
Ath: Chelsea Mitchell 17, Margaret Tatum 15, Kalere Caldwell 5, Sage Mayhew 3, Ryan Jones 2.
Half: 26-18, Raiders.