As she walked back to the Reservoir bench before Monday’s game against Oakland Mills, Zelor Massaquoi overheard a Scorpion player say that if they strapped up defensively on her, they would win the game.
“There are four other girls out on the floor that play as hard as I do, if not harder,” Massaquoi said. “When I’m not playing well, they pick it up for me, and I do the same thing for them.”
Massaquoi played with a chip on her shoulder and her teammates followed suit. The junior forward finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds and a pair of assists in the Gators’ hard-fought, 46-42, victory over host Oakland Mills.
“This wasn’t our best game. They got up on us early but we’re resilient and never give up,” Massaquoi said. “We got it done and that’s all that matters.”
The Scorpions were ready to play from the opening whistle. Traonna Thomas and Tori Diggs each scored three points and Diamond Lee added two free throws as Oakland Mills jumped out to an early 8-1 start in the opening minutes of the first quarter.
“We were a little rattled at the beginning of the game and turned the ball over,” Gators coach Kyle Sullivan said. “I’d say about six minutes into the first quarter we started to wake up a little bit.”
Trailing, 17-15, midway through the second quarter after a 3-pointer by Scorpions forward Karigan Awkward (11 points), Reservoir closed the half out with a 10-2 run.
Massaquoi broke an 18-18 tie with two free throws and followed it with a drive to the basket. With seconds left, Keri Rager drained a 3-pointer to give the Gators a 25-19 advantage into halftime.
Reservoir began to pull away in the third quarter, opening up a 35-27 lead thanks seven straight points scored between Massaquoi and center Blair Bonner. The key for the Gators was solving the Scorpions’ full-court press with long passes that lead to easy points.
“We knew that they were going to play us with intensity,” Sullivan said. “They like to create turnovers with pressure. The one thing (Oakland Mills) didn’t do great today was get back in transition defense. They gave us passes over the top and that led to maybe ten layups.”
But each time the Gators made a push to put the game out of reach, Oakland Mills pushed back.
With her team down by eight early in the fourth, Thomas (18 points) tried her hardest to help the Scorpions catch up. She scored her team’s final eight points of the contest, including a 3-pointer that cut Oakland Mills’ deficit to 44-41 with 2 minutes, 29 seconds left in regulation.
The comeback attempt came up short, however, as the Scorpions missed two 3-point attempts in their final two possessions as time ran out.
“We lost to them by 30-some points the first time we faced them this season, so we made our mind up yesterday that we were going to go full-court man the whole game and get after them,” Oakland Mills coach Seth Willingham said.
“We had a long talk in practice the other day and they made a commitment to give 100-percent every time they step on the floor. That’s what the girls did tonight.”
Re: Massaquoi 15, Thompson 4.
OM: Awkward 9, Thomas 4.