In a classic Howard County girls basketball matchup, Mt. Hebron — a seven-time state champion, hosted Hammond — a three-time state champion, in the opening contest of the Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame boys and girls doubleheader Saturday.
“This is just a great honor,” said Vikings coach Anthony Bell, whose team road a five-game winning streak heading into the contest. “It is a great honor for our girls. We like to give the respect back to the people being inducted and I want my girls to enjoy this history that they are about to see.”
The Vikings (6-1 county, 11-6 overalll) came out on top, 66-39, as an early 15-0 run helped establish a large cushion heading in to the first half to propel the eventual 27-point victory.
“I think the biggest difference was that we just kept our intensity up and our pressure, kept it going and eventually, like most teams, it eventually wears teams down,” Bell said. “I give them credit they have improved. This is one of the best Hammond teams I have seen in some years. Even though the score was like that, but I mean we really game planed for them and we knew if we didn’t come to play hard there could be a different result today.”
Taylor Liguori opened up the game by knocking down a corner three for Hammond (1-6, 4-13), but the Vikings proceeded to go on a 7-0 run, which put them out in front early in the first.
The Golden Bears stayed within three points midway through the period, but Mt. Hebron gained momentum by forcing seven Golden Bears turnovers, leading to a 10-0 run to end the quarter.
The Vikings scored six unanswered points to start the second period, but Gabi Abel put an end to the run with five minutes to play in the half.
With 2:30 remaining before the break, Gabi Abel hit both free throw attempts on a 1-and-1, and then Dani Abel followed with a 3-pointer on the following possession to cut the deficit, 35-14.
But with about a minute remaining, Maura Devine added two more points to the Vikings lead before the half to put them up, 37-14.
“The issue was we didn’t come out ready to fight,” said Golden Bears coach Raymona Reid. “It was a whole different mentality. I don’t know where our mentality was. It wasn’t to really come out and play our game. We came out and basically let them set the tone… We just didn’t show up to play.”
It was a terrific shooting night for Mt. Hebron, as it shared the ball well and scored one of its highest point totals of the season.
In the third quarter alone the Vikings had five different players notch a basket, as Shane Devine, Meredith Williams, Satori Valentine, Erin Demek and Maura Devine helped Mt. Hebron extend its lead, 56-28 heading into the final eight minutes.
“We’re a fighting team, however we got to remember that we can’t let ourselves get down by 30 before we start digging,” Reid said. “Basically I said [at the half] just go out and execute our plan. Play hard for each other, play smart — they’re a fast team, so because they are a fast team we got to make sure we are running and playing strategically. Not playing so out of tune, where we are actually over exerting energy as opposed to really utilizing energy to stay with them.”
Imani Reid opened up the fourth quarter with a bucket for Hammond, but the Vikings countered with a 6-0 run, capped off by a put-back by Eve Chase.
“If we can keep moving up in our defense and keep scoring more, as we get closer to bigger teams we’re going to keep pushing and keep winning,” Chase said. “We’ve really been stepping up our defense. Each game we have gotten better and we’ve really been working on the help slides, and definitely the fast breaks, getting to the corners where we are supposed to be. I think if we give it our all like we usually do and we stay positive we know we can beat anyone.”
The Vikings finished with seven different scorers in the game, with Shane Devine leading the way with 18 points. Valentine, Demek and Maura Devine followed with 14 and 11 points, respectively, while Chase added six.
Mt. Hebron is starting to gain momentum with only a few games left of the regular season. After beginning the year 3-5, the Vikings have won seven out of their last eight contests.
“I definitely know that we have a chance to make a run, but we just got to keep doing what we’re doing,” Bell said. “If we stop doing anything different or start letting these wins get to our head then it’s not going to happen. We just got to stay humble and hungry, because we remember how the beginning of the season was and we keep that in the back of our mind. We’re not forgetting how we can play if we don’t play as one and as a team. We don’t revert back to that, so we’re just going to keep grinding and staying humble.”
Liguori led Hammond with eight points, followed by Reid, Nyelle Allen, Gabi Abel and Ashlyn McInterney, who each had six.
“I wish we could have given a better show,” Raymona Reid said, who was inducted in the Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame herself in 2013. “It would have been nice to see the team that I know we are, really give the crowd a show. However, I still think it is an honor. I’m getting ready to take a seat over there and it will be great to see all of my new hall of fame inductees take a seat with us.”
The Golden Bears are on the road against River Hill on Tuesday, while Mt. Hebron will visit Centennial. Both games are scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Mt. Hebron 66, Hammond 39
MH (6-1, 11-6): S. Devine 18, Valentine 14, Demek 11, M. Devine 11, Chase 6, Williams 5, Rogers 1.
Ha (1-6, 4-13): Liguori 8, Reid 6, Allen 6, G. Abel 6, McInerney 6, D. Abel 5, Mesol 2.
Half: 37-14, Mt. Hebron.