This season, the Mt. Hebron girls basketball program has operated under the philosophy that if a team beats them once, they better bring everything they have the second time around.
On Wednesday, facing Reservoir, the Vikings used that mentaility to exact a little revenge.
Forward Nia Crump dropped in a season-high 19 points, but it was her one-on-one defensive effort against the Gators’ season leading scorer Zelor Massaquoi that proved to be the difference-maker. The Vikings took advantage, holding the visitors to just seven points in the fourth quarter to clinch a 40-36 victory.
“We didn’t need any extra motivation, because they already beat us once,” said Mt. Hebron coach Tony Bell. “Honestly, in my opinion, Nia is the best defensive player in the county… She was by far the best player on the court tonight.”
The two teams last met on Dec. 17, when the Gators rode Massaquoi’s 24 points for a 64-61 double-overtime victory.
Before the game, Bell said Crump was absolute in her request to guard the Gators’ talented forward. She wanted the challenge, and in such a physical game, her stout defense ultimately prevailed.
In the first half, the Vikings (14-4, 16-5) ran out to a big 7-0 lead. Heading into the break, the Gators (13-4) had cut the deficit a touch, but still trailed, 22-13. Both Massaquoi and forward Blair Bonner were held scoreless for the first 16 minutes of the game.
Throughout the entire contest, Bell said his team’s game plan was to feed the ball into the paint to both Crump and sophomore center Gabby Green. Defensively, limiting Reservoir’s second-chance opportunities was also a must. On the perimeter, the Vikings’ guards also played critical roles.
Playing with an injured finger, much of Tianna Wallpher’s point guard duties were handled by Megan Konig, who became more of a distributor. Bell commended the guard's work, referring to her as one of his most unselfish players.
In the second half, the Gators started their comeback, pulling even at 29-29 heading into the final quarter.
“We knew, right there, that it was going to be a dogfight,” said Bell. “Reservoir never quit. They really fought to came back.”
The fourth quarter was all about heart for the Vikings. Though the visitors were in striking distance with just two minutes to go, that was when Shannon Kelliher made what Bell called the play of the game.
After her jumper attempt missed, the guard followed her shot and challenged Massaquoi for the rebound. Kelliher snatched the board and converted on the second chance layup, getting fouled in the process.
Her subsequent free throw was good, extending her squad’s lead to six points, providing just enough breathing room for the visitors to squeak out the win.
Senior captain Tara Thompson led the Gators with nine points, followed closely by Bonner (8 points) and Danaysha Turner (7).
The Vikings own the county’s longest active winning streak, having now beaten two of the four teams that handed them county losses earlier in the season. Since they won’t get to face Howard again, Bell’s girls will get their last shot at redemption on Tuesday against Atholton.
“We’re excited about how well we’re playing as a team, and not just as individuals,” the coach added. “Nobody is out there just looking for points. I have four girls on my team that are capable of scoring 18 points or more in any game. It’s just a matter of which one steps up and does it.”
Mt. Hebron 40, Reservoir 36
MH: Nia Crump 19, Gabby Green 6, Meghan Doherty 6, Tianna Wallpher 4, Shannon Kelliher 3, Megan Konig 2.
Res: Tara Thompson 9, Blair Bonner 8, Danaysha Turner 7, Zelor Massaquoi 5, Keri Rager 3, Amani Ball 2.
Half: 22-13, Vikings.