ELLICOTT CITY, MD — Late in the fourth quarter at Howard on Wednesday night, Mt. Hebron's Meghan Doherty took a kick-out pass from fellow senior Megan Konig, dribbled once to her left, and with three seconds remaining on the shot clock, nailed a jumper from just inside the three-point line to put her Vikings ahead, 41-38.
There were still 55 seconds to play, but the smile on Doherty's face and the bounce in her step as she retreated back down the court on defense spelled victory just as clearly as the scoreboard would moments later.
"I just knew that my team was going to play their butts off to get this win no matter what," said Doherty, who finished with a team-high 10 points in the 41-38 win that featured five ties and 13 lead changes. "We scored, we got up and we weren't going to let them win … it was a really good feeling and we knew that we couldn't just leave here after we worked so hard to get that lead. We didn't let up."
The Vikings raced to a 4-0 lead early in the first quarter, but Howard fought back, eventually building a 13-8 lead on a Berit Batterton bucket at the first quarter buzzer. Howard's Jayda Gilmore scored four points in a 30-second span midway through the second quarter to put the Lions up 20-15, but a pair of three-point plays by Nia Crump bookending the second quarter gave the Vikings a 23-22 half time lead.
"Nia played amazing. She's usually playing guard for us, but tonight it looked like she was back to her old self as a post," Doherty said. "She kept us in this game the whole first half."
The game was tight all through the third, though Howard regained its five-point lead with two minutes left on a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Sam Lewis. Mt. Hebron continued the theme of scoring at the buzzer, as senior forward Giovanna Alli nailed a turnaround with three seconds left to make it a one-point game, at 32-31, heading into the final period.
The fourth quarter featured five more lead changes, and neither team ever led by more than three points. Doherty scored with three minutes left on an assist from Konig to put the Vikings ahead, 37-36, but Howard sophomore Jenny Kinsey responded one minute later to put the Lions back on top. Junior center Gabrielle Green's score in the post with 1:51 remaining put Mt. Hebron ahead for good.
"That was awesome. I've never been so proud of her. When she put that up she wasn't nervous about it, she took it up strong, and she laid it in like she always does. She always comes up big when we need her to," said Doherty, who broke up a court-length pass as time expired to snuff Howard's hopes for a game-tying three-pointer.
Mt. Hebron's win knocked Howard (10-2) out of a three-way tie for first place atop the county standings. The Vikings (11-1) will host Atholton (11-1) Saturday night in the annual Hall of Fame game to determine a lone county leader heading into the final stretch.
"The county title race is tightening up," said Mt. Hebron coach Tony Bell, whose team handed Atholton its only loss, on Dec. 12. "We beat (Atholton) once early in the year, but that's their only loss and they're coming to play."
Bell coached under Howard coach Scott Robinson at Mt. Hebron, where Robinson is still a teacher.
"One of my mentors is Scott Robinson. I took over the program after him and he helped me a lot along the way before he came to Howard," Bell said. "We play Howard one time here every year. I told the girls, 'this is it, seniors. It must be destiny for you to keep playing here. There's a purpose behind it.'"
Howard's loss halted a 12-game winning streak, including a big win over Baltimore City College on Jan. 17.
"We had a really good run. We've had a lot of close games and we ran into a great team. They have all the ingredients: they have great talent and great coaching," coach Scott Robinson said. "I'm really proud of my girls."
Natalie Talley (12 points) and Berit Batterton (10) combined for 22 points for the Lions. Nia Crump, Gabrielle Green and Peyton LeConte each scored eight points for the Vikings.
MH (11-1): Doherty 10, Crump 8, Green 8, LeConte 8, Konig 3, Alli 2, Williams 2.
Ho (10-2): Talley 12, Batterton 10, Gilmore 6, Lewis 5, Kinsey 3, Scott 2.
Half: MH 23-22
Atholton 59, Hammond 30
A: Mitchell 30, Mayhew 9, Burmester 6, Caldwell 5, Peterson 3, Hinson 2, Quinn 2, Simons 2.
Ha: Martin 8, Terry 8, King 5, Witt 5, Miller 2, Wallace 2.
Half: A 29-12
Centennial 40, Oakland Mills 33
C: Driscoll 12, Mitchell 10, Simmons 9, Eads 7, Gray 2.
OM: Diggs 17, Jackson 6, Lockwood 6, Davis 2, Jones-Carter 2.
Half: OM 24-17
Long Reach 47, Marriotts Ridge 39
LR: K. Williams 19, Green 10, Ratliffe 6, D. Williams 6, Ezimako 4, Mata 4.
MR: Held 11, Miller 11, S. Blalock 6, Ohnmacht 4, C. Blalock 3, Nelson 3.
Half: MR 23-18
Reservoir at Wilde Lake
Concordia Prep 48, Chapelgate 23 (IAAM C Conference)
River Hill at Glenelg
Centennial at Reservoir