The undefeated Lions didn’t get a big offensive performance from one of their stars, as no player scored more than 12 points in the 56-37 win over host Mt. Hebron on Friday.
What led the Lions to their 11th straight victory to start the season was something that’s been present in almost every one of their games this season — a stout defense. Scott Robinson’s squad has allowed fewer than 40 points in nine of 11 games this season.
Anii Harris talks about Howard girls basketball's defense after the Lions' 56-37 win over Mt. Hebron on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020.
“At the end of last season, we were evaluating video, and I wasn’t happy with our defense at all,” Robinson said. “We went back to the drawing board and went back to some things that I did here (at Mt. Hebron) when we won the state championship. It’s a lot of help (defense), and the girls have done a really good job of buying into what we’re teaching. It’s a credit to the girls.”
Howard (6-0 Howard County, 11-0) is allowing 34.2 points per game this season, which ranks second best in the county behind Marriotts Ridge (34.0 points per game). The only games Howard has given up more than 40 points are Reservoir (63) and South River (47).
“They have such athleticism, even on their bench, too,” Ahearn said. “They’re constantly pressuring the ball, and they play great help-side defense. Scott’s one of the best coaches in any sport that I’ve come across in my career.”
As Howard’s best defender, senior Anii Harris regularly guards the opposing team’s best player. Harris also leads the Lions with 16.6 points per game and is a good rebounder from the guard position.
“A lot of times our defense creates our offense,” Harris said. “If we play hard on defense, we can get fastbreaks and push it down the floor.”
Robinson said Harris’ athletic ability allows her to guard both guards and post players. She’s also able to play hard defense against elite players without getting in foul trouble herself. She was the main defender on Mt. Hebron’s Tori Valentine (20.7 points per game) on Friday and didn’t allow Valentine to keep the game close in the second half.
“Anii is our best defensive player,” Robinson said. “She’s a great athlete, and she’s got quick feet. She plays hard, and she guards the other team’s best players, even if it’s a post player.”
Howard led 8-6 midway through the first quarter but ended the period on an 8-0 run. The Lions then outscored the Vikings 15-9 in the second quarter to take a 16-point lead at halftime. Harris led the Lions in the first half with an efficient 10 points.
The Lions then extended the lead to 21 points at the end of the third period before playing the end of the fourth quarter with its backups in.
Valentine led the Vikings with 21 points on 9-of-20 shooting and 10 rebounds, while Marisa Sanchez-Henry led the Lions with 12 points. Coming off Howard’s bench, Samiyah Nasir and Kamerin McDuffie both provided scoring with eight and six points, respectively.
“Kamerin has good post moves,” Robinson said. “Samiyah is a great defensive player. She’s a freshman…she’s going to be a great player.”
Ahearn said for the team to reach its full potential, the Vikings’ role players need to help Valentine in the scoring output. The Vikings shot 27 percent from the field on Friday and 16% (5 for 31) excluding Valentine’s shots.
“That’s just not good enough,” Ahearn said. “Nobody has to play legit, honest defense if only one person is producing. We need to gain some courage and have some girls to take some responsibility and believe in themselves.”
Both teams are back in action Saturday in the Public vs. Private Classic at McDonogh. Howard plays Mt. Carmel at 10:30 a.m., while Hebron takes on St. Paul’s at 9 a.m.
Howard 56, Mt. Hebron 37
Ho (6-0, 11-0): M. Sanchez-Henry 12, A. Harris 10, C. Malagar 8, S. Nasir 8, G. Scott 6, E. Durkee 6, K. McDuffie 6.
MH (3-3, 5-5): T. Valentine 21, E. Dixon 8, R. Vidal 3, K. Milano 2, D. Bodziak 2, C. Smith 1.
River Hill 54, Reservoir 44
Kennedy Clark scored a game-high 17 points to lead the Hawks to a 10-point win over visiting Reservoir. Clark helped the Hawks speed out to an early lead that they never relinquished with a 10 points in the first quarter. The Hawks also held Tiffany Hooker, who entered the game scoring 30.9 points per game, to a season-low 16 points. Anhyia Smith and Saniha Jackson chipped in with 14 and 12 points, respectively. The Hawks have yet to lose a county game this season.
RH (7-0, 9-3): K. Clark 17, A. Smith 14, S. Jackson 12, A. Thomas 7, A. McCullough 2, E. Devine 2.
Re (3-3, 6-3): T. Hooker 16, M. Davis 7, K. Holmes 6, A. Pennington 6, K. Abunassar 5, L. Hardie 4.
Halftime: 27-16, RH
Centennial 51, Long Reach 21
The Eagles earned their third straight victory. Sophomore Tori Pearson scored 15 points, which is her highest point total since her 21-point performance on Dec. 9. Brook Anderson chipped in with 13 points, including three made 3-pointers. Freshman Tamir Whittle led the Lightning with nine points.
C (4-2, 5-5): T. Pearson 15, B. Anderson 13, O. Reese 10, S. Sopchick 4, L. Pellegrini 3, K. Parisi 2, O. Jackson 2, N. Eloseily 2.
LR (0-6, 0-9): T. Whittle 9, R. Baldwin 7, J. Putman 3, R. McDaniel 2.
Halftime: 28-9, C
Oakland Mills 60, Glenelg 40
The Scorpions exploded for 28 points in the second quarter en route to a 20-point win over Glenelg. Jazmine Washington, who is averaging 20.5 points per game, scored 13 points in the second quarter and 23 in the game. She made three 3-pointers in the period. Senior Jaidyn Harris, who is averaging 16.4 points a game, scored 20 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter. Freshman Lauren LaPointe led the Gladiators with 13 points.
OM (3-2, 7-4): J. Washington 23, J. Harris 20, R. Fairbanks 8, T. McDuffie 5, S. Novak 3, K. Browne 1.
G (1-6, 3-7): L. LaPointe 13, A. Cook 8, G. Tolbert 6, M. Sloan 5, A. Gillespie 4, S. Salafia 2, J. Hirsch 2.
Halftime: 36-17, OM
Atholton 53, Hammond 38
After opening the season 1-7, the Raiders have won two straight games. Three Raiders scored in double figures in the win over Hammond. Mia Hargrett and Madison McCabe both scored 12 points, while Tiara Kidd chipped in with 11. Hammond freshman Maya Woodson led the Golden Bears with 14 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks.
Ha (2-5, 3-8): M. Woodson 14, R. Smoot 9, J. Fogle 7, K. Brown 3, D. Britt 2, M. Newby 2, H. Chambers 1.
A (2-4, 3-7): M. Hargrett 12, M. McCabe 12, T. Kidd 11, N. Blair 9. K. Brown 4, S. Mims 2, K. Munro 2, A. Barber 1.
Halftime: 28-17, A
Marriotts Ridge 44, Wilde Lake 33
The Mustangs pulled out a game of runs against Wilde Lake. After the Wildecats led 10-9 at the end of the first quarter, the Mustangs went on a 12-0 run to lead 21-10 at halftime. The Wildecats then tied the game at 29 apiece in the fourth quarter, but Marriotts Ridge had a strong fourth quarter to seal the victory. The Mustangs were led by junior Morgan Lee with 12 points and balanced scoring in the post by seniors Emma Morath, Caroline Crawford and Kendall Bryan, who scored 10, 8 and 7 points, respectively.
MR (4-2, 9-3): M. Lee 12, E. Morath 10, C. Crawford 8, K. Bryan 7, A. Windsor 3, E. Miller 2, K. Lee 2.
WL (2-3, 3-5): K. Corkeron 12, M. Swaby-Rowe 10, C. Zimmerman 9, L. Richards 2.
Halftime: 21-10, MR
Glenelg Country School 66, Chapelgate 26
The Dragons won their third straight game with a blowout win over fellow Howard County private school Chapelgate. Four GCS players scored in double figures — Blair Byrne (12), Ava Keenan (11), Neve O’Ferrall (11) and Lena Doreen (10). Joi Thorton led Chapelgate with 19 points.
GCS (3-1 IAAM B, 7-4): B. Byrne 12, A. Keenan 11, N. O’Ferrall 11, L. Doreen 10, C. Haynes 9, C. Lisk 7, A. Bender 6.
Chap: J. Thornton 19, J. Henderson 4, M. Anderson 2, J. Gray 1.