With 6.5 seconds remaining in the game, Mt. Hebron freshman Meredith Williams found herself standing at the free throw line about to shoot two shots that would have iced the win for the Vikings over Centennial.
Williams – who had hit 1-of-3 free throws in the game– unfortunately came up short on both attempts. But on the second shot, instead of sulking in the misses, Williams made a heads up play and ripped the offensive rebound away from the Eagles, wasting time on the clock and all but sealing the win for the Vikings.
“Meredith is just a special-type player,” said Mt. Hebron coach Anthony Bell after the eventual 45-43 win. “One thing I can say about Meredith is that she doesn’t show any type of emotion, whether she’s tired, whether she’s hurt, she’s just even-keeled… I give her all the credit in the world to grab that rebound. That key rebound at the end to dribble it out and seal that game – it didn’t surprise me though. She’s a hard worker, doesn’t complain about a thing and I couldn’t have asked for a harder working kid than that. I mean all my kids work hard, but Meredith Williams is a special kid.”
The Vikings held a lead for the majority of the match and went into halftime with a 22-15 advantage.
Mt. Hebron’s defensive pressure got to the Eagles in the first 16 minutes, as they finished on just six made field goals in the first half. Meanwhile for the Vikings, they looked to push the ball or work it inside to their post players. Their work in the paint gave them 10 trips to the foul line in the first two quarters, hitting on 60 percent.
“I felt like our last game we really got outhustled by Wilde Lake. They got all the loose balls – and that was a point of emphasis tonight,” said Centennial coach Bobby Macheel. “We can’t take anything for granted. We need to go get the ball and I thought they did a good job of that. Although, I think Hebron also did a good job on the offensive boards. I think we need to do a better job boxing out on the other end. I thought that they made a couple huge plays where we didn’t box out and they got some boards. That’s credit to them, they really attacked the boards and we just got to do a little bit of a better job boxing out.”
The Vikings saw their lead balloon to as much as eight in the second half, but the Eagles kept clawing back, keeping their eye on the lead.
Early in the fourth quarter Kewa Gray led the surge for Centennial, netting seven points in a 8-1 run that helped tie the game at 41 with 3:27 remaining in the game. It was the first time the score was knotted since the early minutes of action.
“Kewa was in foul trouble the whole game and she came down with her fourth and I told her to keep her head in it, and she did,” Macheel said. “I feel like in previous years she might have kind of been mentally out of it when she got that fourth foul, but she stuck with it and when she got back in she played great. She really gave us some fire at the end, which was great to see – got some steals – I was really impressed. And I think that’s what we’re going to see from her down the stretch. I think she really can be a contributor.
But it wasn’t until Ashley Molz calmly knocked down two free throws with just more than a minute remaining that the Eagles saw their first lead of the half, 43-42.
The two team’s traded some turnovers, but ultimately it came down to a Mt. Hebron designed play underneath their own basket.
With 10.4 seconds, Bell’s play worked to perfection, as freshman Maura Devine found herself open on the far block and neatly put away the lay up that gave the Vikings back the one-point lead.
“Yesterday, before the end of the (practice) at the last 10 minutes all we do is work on special inbound plays in case we are ever in a situation and behold,” Bell said. “We’re going to laugh on the bus because they’re always like, “coach we never use them,” and that bailed us out. It was perfect, Maura came around, hit her lay up and that was it.”
On the ensuing possession, the Vikings pressed the Eagles as they attempted to get one more shot off before the buzzer, but Williams came up big, picking off the inbounds pass. The Eagles had no choice but to foul to stop the clock.
“Our defense at the end was pretty good coming up with the steal. Meredith missed the free throws, but grabbing that big rebound at the end was huge for us,” Bell said. “Mentally it’s huge… just the way they stepped up, persevered and never quit. That’s the one thing I can say about them, even though they are a young team, they never quit – we can be down by 40, but they’ll never stop. As a coach, I can’t coach heart. It’s something you have or you don’t. I can give you the plays, and the sets, and the tools, but heart I can’t give you and that’s something that Meredith and most of them on my team has, so I’m fortunate to have that.”
Despite not coming up with the late foul shots, Williams’ hustle is what all but sealed the win. The Vikings then netted a few more free throws in the end with 0.4 seconds to solidify the 45-43 final score.
“It feels great, we came out strong and we played well,” said Williams after the game. “I was upset I missed the foul shots, but just getting back in there and doing whatever you can.”
Mt. Hebron is back in action Friday, Jan. 22 when it hosts Long Reach.
“Our goal is to get better every game,” Bell said. “We’re not even looking at county championships and standings. I haven’t looked at the standings all year… I just wanted the kids to focus on one game at a time. I just told them, we have Centennial today, Long Reach Friday, we play McDonough – the number one team in the Baltimore Sun Monday – and then we come back against Glenelg, so there is no easy game for us. We’re just learning from every game and getting ready for the playoffs.”
For Centennial, it will also resume play again Jan. 22 when it faces off against Marriotts Ridge.
“That’s what I told the girls. It’s Hebron, it’s a rivalry game, so we’re upset but in the grand scheme of things it’s just another game,” said Macheel after his team dropped to 7-6 overall, and 5-5 in county play. “I thought we showed some flashes of some great play to get back in that game, especially following our game plan and doing things that I asked them to do and I started seeing that, which was great. It was great seeing us fight back. In the end, Hebron made a play and executed a little better than we did…just little things, and a couple big plays at the end, but I’m proud of my girls and the way they played.
Hebron is a tough team and they’re just getting better. They’re very young, but I think we’re young too and I’m excited to see what we do in the playoffs and the rest of the season.”
Mt. Hebron 45, Centennial 43 (Friday, Jan. 15)
MH (6-4, 7-5): S. Devine 15, Williams 9, Chase 7, Lybrook 6, M. Devine 5, Toth 1, LeConte 1, Davis 1.
C (5-5, 7-6): Gray 12, Simmons 12, Molz 8, Dunagan 4, Hampshey 3.
Half: 22-15 MH.
Wilde Lake 54, Long Reach 53 (Friday, Jan. 15)
The Wildecats claimed their first win of the year Jan. 15 after upsetting the Lightning on their home floor.
Long Reach, coming off its huge upset over Howard Wednesday that gave the Lions their first loss, suffered its first defeat in nearly a month as the 54-53 outcome snapped its six-game winning streak.
It was a tight matchup throughout, as the score was tied at 11 to end the first quarter and Wilde Lake was up just one heading into halftime.
In the end it was the Wildecats’ Brynn Drury who knocked down the go-ahead jumper that put Wilde Lake ahead in the final seconds. She finished with 12 points, nine rebounds – six of which came off the offensive glass – and two steals on the night.
Meanwhile, Rachel Lazris went off for 33 points for the Wildecats, getting most of her points from the floor, netting 12 made shots.
The Lightning shot poorly in the game, hitting just 2-of-18 from three-point range, and just more than 26 percent from the floor, while going 13-for-23 from the foul line.
Freshman Lyric Swann led Long Reach with 14 points, going 6-for-12 from the field, while also pulling down three rebounds.
In the disappointing loss, Ariana Briggs-Hall had one of her best games in her young Lightning career, finishing with 12 points, 22 rebounds and six steals – all career high’s.
Both teams play again Friday, Jan. 22, with the Wildecats heading home to host Hammond, while the Lightning hit the road to face Mt. Hebron.
WL (1-9, 1-11): Lazris 33, Drury 12, Macklin 6, Teachman 2, Lee 2.
LR (8-3, 9-3): L. Swann 14, Briggs-Hall 12, K. Williams 12, D. Williams 6, Ezimako 5, Joyce 3, Thompson 2.
Half: 26-25 WL.
MR (1-9, 1-10): S. Blalock 15, Sullivan 10, C. Blalock 10, Held 8, Hockensmith 6, Morath 5, Fredrick 2, Stepke 1.
RH (3-7, 5-7)
OM (3-7, 4-8): Lockwood 22, Jackson 21, Weiss 3, Pacheco 2.
A (8-1, 11-1): Hart 14, Jones 9, Owens 7, Burmester 6, Flynn 3, Cannon 3.
Ho (8-1, 11-1): Furr 16, Lewis 10, Scott 8, Kinsey 5, Addison 5, Saunders 4, Eich 2, Sarah Sagi 2.
Re (4-7, 6-7): Tiller 10, Dudzinski 2, Dorn 2, Verna 2.
Half: 28-5 Ho.
Ha (5-5, 6-5): Grenway 14, Liguori 9, S. King 8, Reid 4, D. Abel 2, G. Abel 2, Mesol 2.
G (7-3, 10-3): Foster 12, Mattis 8, Wolfrey 7, Henggeler 6, Johnson 3, Twigg 2, Butera 2.