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Western Tech girls rally past Hereford with stunning comeback

Western Tech’s Destini Ward, shown shooting in a win over Perry Hall last month, had a team-high 20 points to lead the Wolverines to a 52-46 victory over Hereford on Feb. 12.
Western Tech’s Destini Ward, shown shooting in a win over Perry Hall last month, had a team-high 20 points to lead the Wolverines to a 52-46 victory over Hereford on Feb. 12. (Colby Ware/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

There are very few things Hereford senior guard Reese Harden can’t do on the basketball court.

When she made her fifth three-pointer of the night to put the Bulls (12-4) up 46-35 with 5:07 remaining in the game on Feb. 12 against host Western Tech (15-3), it looked like she was destined to be the player of the game.

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But Harden, who averages 20 points a contest, and leads the team in assists, barely touched the ball the rest of the way and the Wolverines closed with a miraculous 17-0 run to pull out a 52-46 victory.

Sydney Stokes gave the Wolverines their first lead, 48-46, with a layup, after an assist by Tiffany Manning (15 points, 5 assists) with 2:45 left in the fourth quarter.

A putback by Dyani Mattar with 1:34 left made it 50-46 and Manning’s two free throws with 11 seconds left capped the scoring.

Destini Ward had a key blocked shot that led to her conventional three-point play at the other end, after another assist by Manning, that pulled the Wolverines within two, 46-44, with 3:52 left in the game.

A short jumper by Maya Britton tied the game with 3:23 remaining.

Ward, a sophomore, finished with a team-high 20 points to go along with seven rebounds, four steals and three assists.

“We had to dig deep down to pull this out, we lost last year and we knew we couldn’t lose again this year, we are on a streak, we needed to do this for our seniors, so I was like, ‘I just got to give everything I have to get us ahead,’” Ward said.

Ward made three three-pointers in the game, despite her coach’s desire for her to penetrate.

“The best part was she ignored me, I told her to take it to the hoop and she started hitting threes and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll take it,’ and it made me look good,” Western Tech coach Alan Lagon said.

Ward was just finding her comfortable place outside of Hereford’s zone.

“I understood what he was saying, but I just knew if it was there, I had to take it,” Ward said.

Besides the offense down the stretch, Western Tech’s defense and rebounding improved tremendously.

“What spurred it (the scoring run) was the defense, especially the rebounding," Lagon said.

Sophomore Dyani Mattar had three key rebounds and two steals in the final quarter.

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“She knows basketball,” Lagon said. “She is a solid basketball player and she is learning. She has worked her way into the starting lineup and become an integral part of the lineup.”

Another player who knows the game of basketball is Hereford’s Harden, and for over three quarters she was the force behind the Bulls maintaining their lead.

Hereford's Reese Harden, shown in the state semifinals last year against River Hill, had a game-high 21 points in the Bulls' 52-46 loss to Western Tech.
Hereford's Reese Harden, shown in the state semifinals last year against River Hill, had a game-high 21 points in the Bulls' 52-46 loss to Western Tech. (Baltimore Sun)

Her 15 first-half points helped the Bulls take a 30-23 lead into halftime.

After getting two assists in the third quarter, Harden hit a three-pointer with seven seconds left to extend a two-point lead to five.

She drew a charge early in the fourth quarter and the Bulls extended their lead to 10, 43-33.

“She is a heckuva ballplayer,” Lagon said. “We tried to key on her obviously because she is that good.”

Hereford coach Ellen Fitzkee was disappointed that Harden barely touched the ball after her three-pointer gave the Bulls a 11-point lead.

“That’s why other players have to step up and do the job,” Fitzkee said. “We did get some good looks.”

Harden is the lone senior starter back from last year’s regional champions.

“She is having a nice season for us, I mean she has a lot of pressure on her,” Fitzkee said.

For over three quarters, Harden’s teammates helped alleviate that pressure by holding Manning in check.

She is Western Tech’s all-time leading scorer with well over 1,000 points.

“There were times when our defense was effective and other times when we just went to sleep,” Fitzkee said. “I thought we did a nice job on the boards defensively in the first half and in the second half, not so much.”

They also couldn’t contain Ward.

“She’s a nice player, she rebounds well and she moves well without the ball,” Fitzkee said.

Western Tech will get a rematch from last season when they play Pikesville in the Baltimore County championship game at SECU Arena on Feb. 25 and Ward is looking forward to it.

“After losing last year, we have to give it everything that we have in order to get where we want to win a county championship,” Ward said.

Scoring

Western Tech 52

Destini Ward 20, Tiffany Manning 15, Sydney Stokes 7, Dyani Mattar 6, Troi Williams 2, Maya Britton 2.

Hereford 46

Reese Harden 21, Kayla Nieberlein 7, Jordan Peterson 6, Molly Daw 5, Kylie Elser 4, Demi Gerovasilis 3.

Halftime: Hereford 30 Western Tech 23

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