Most of the top girls basketball teams in Howard County have a dominant scorer.
Reservoir’s Tiffany Hooker is scoring at an unseen pace (28.1 points per game) to lead the Gators. Mt. Hebron’s Tori Valentine is scoring 22.3 points per game for the Vikings. River Hill has three players scoring more than 11 points a game, but only one player thereafter scoring more than 3 points per contest.
Marriotts Ridge, however, is zigging while other teams zag, and the Mustangs put their balanced scoring attack on display once again Monday night in their 56-33 win over Hammond.
“We don’t get nervous if someone isn’t having a good game, because we don’t rely on one person,” said Marriotts Ridge head coach Sarah Miller. “I don’t think any one person feels like they have to do it all during a game."
Eight Marriotts Ridge players scored in the win over Hammond, and that’s a common occurrence for the Mustangs. They’ve had eight-plus players score in 11 of their 19 games, and on average, 7.8 players score in each game. The Mustangs’ season high is 11 players in their win over Hammond on Jan. 8.
“We can really trust each other way more than we’ve been able to in the past,” said junior Emma Miller. “It’s so easy to rely on each other, and we can move the ball. We know any one of us can score at any moment. We don’t have to rely on one person like most teams do.”
For most of the season, no Marriotts Ridge player was averaging in double figures. Now, due to Emma Morath’s career-high 23 points against Oakland Mills on Jan. 29, the senior forward is the lone Mustang scoring at least 10 points a game. Morath, who is averaging 10.3 points a game, scored 10 points in the team’s win over Hammond on Monday. Emma Miller, who led the Stangs with 12 points Monday, is second on the team with 8.2 points per game.
Balanced scoring can matter most is in crunch time. While other teams have one or two players who are virtually guaranteed to take the key shot, the Mustangs could have several players take that shot. A good example of that balance is that six different Mustangs have led the team in scoring in any given game.
“We’re balanced. We can draw up a play that has multiple opportunities for it,” said Sarah Miller. “There’s always another option. That’s what’s big for us. There’s always another person to go to if something else gets shut down.”
It’s not just who’s scoring the points for the Mustangs that’s balanced, but how they’re scoring. Between post players Caroline Crawford and Morath, 3-point shooter Kendall Bryan and guards Emma Miller and Morgan Lee, the Mustangs can score from all three levels.
“When the post isn’t working, we can kick it out and get the 3s going,” Emma Miller said. “If that’s not working, we can ram it into the post. We can score from anywhere.”
On Monday, Marriotts Ridge (8-5 Howard County, 13-6 overall) displayed one of their highest scoring first halves of the season Monday at Hammond (3-11, 5-14). The Mustangs sprinted out to a 15-2 lead and entered halftime up 31-9. Against a team like Hammond, which has hung around with teams like Reservoir and Oakland Mills, Sarah Miller said getting ahead early was key.
“That was our focus during practice,” Sarah Miller said. “We needed to put our foot down immediately and got a lead. That was the first thing we said when we talked before the game.”
The Mustangs extended their lead to 42-18 at the end of the third quarter and played their backups for most of the fourth quarter. As the tallest team in the county, Sarah Miller said their height helped defend Hammond’s skilled post players — Jocelyn Fogle and Maya Woodson, who combined for 20 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks in the loss.
“We wanted to force a lot of pressure on them,” Sarah Miller said. “We wanted to make them work hard to get possessions in the post.”
Hammond head coach Alexis Briscoe said the key for the Golden Bears in their final four games before the playoffs is “consistency.”
“The same thing we do against their backups we can do against their starters,” Briscoe said. “We need to build that confidence.”
Both teams are back in action Thursday. Marriotts Ridge travels to Reservoir, while Hammond plays at Oakland Mills.
Marriotts Ridge 56, Hammond 33
MR (8-5, 13-6): E. Miller 12, E. Morath 10, L. Schanck 10, C. Meininger 6, M. Lee 6, C. Crawford 5, K. Bryan 5, O. Mahon 2.
Ha (3-11, 5-14): J. Fogle 11, M. Woodson 9, M. Newby 4, H. Chambers 4, D. Britt 2, J. McCray 2, K. Brown 1.
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Halftime: 31-9, MR