A key part of the Howard girls basketball team's success is its relentless defense.
In the first half against Marriotts Ridge Friday, the Lions’ defense wasn’t as strong as it’s been for most of the season.
The Mustangs were down only five points at halftime against the undefeated Lions, but Scott Robinson’s squad turned up the pressure in the third quarter. Howard forced 13 turnovers in the period and extended its lead en route to a 56-46 win over the host Mustangs.
“We told them that we really needed to get after it more on defense,” Robinson said. “It’s a credit to the girls. They turned it up intensity wise. The third quarter was key to be able to get some turnovers.”
The Lions ramped up their press defense in the second half. After a few steals and easy buckets, Marriotts Ridge (7-5 Howard County, 12-6 overall) had trouble getting into their half-court offense.
“They make great adjustments,” said Marriotts Ridge head coach Sarah Miller. “They do an excellent job of adjusting their ball pressure. They have five excellent defenders on the floor, and our younger players struggled with handling that ball pressure.”
While Howard (12-0, 18-0) won the game by 10 points, the contest was the third closest game the Lions have played against a county team this season. The other two were a five-point triumph over Reservoir and a 15-point victory over Marriotts Ridge on Jan. 3. In the win over the Mustangs a few days into the New Year, Howard was losing by one point at halftime before making a run in the second half, and a similar game script occurred Friday.
“We knew this would be a good game,” Robinson said. “We knew before the season both games would be. They’ve had JV champions for many years.”
Howard senior captain Marisa Sanchez-Henry said Marriotts Ridge’s size matches up well against the Lions. The Mustangs are the tallest team in the county, and the Lions’ strength on offense is driving to the hoop.
“They play us really well,” said Sanchez-Henry, who scored eight points in the win. “They’re long. They’re the biggest team in Howard County. They cut off those driving lanes, so they take away the penetration.”
Howard opened with a 10-0 run in the first 90 seconds of the game. Emily Durkee and Gabby Scott both hit 3-pointers to open the contest. Scott ended the game with a season-high 16 points.
“They’re an excellent team,” Miller said of the Lions’ quick start. “There’s a reason they’re No. 1 in the county and undefeated.”
After trailing 19-9 at the end of the first period, the Mustangs went on a 13-4 run to open the second quarter to trail by only one point. Emma Miller, who scored a season-high 17 points against Howard on Jan. 3, led the Mustangs during the stretch and ended the game with 15 points.
“(Emma) Miller was fantastic,” Robinson said. “She was hitting tough shots.”
The Mustangs had the momentum after going down by one point midway through the second period, Howard senior Camille Malagar hit a 3-pointer to shift the tide.
“She’s just a good player,” Robinson said. “We want her shooting 3s. We know there’s a good chance of it going in. I like the fact that she has the confidence to take those shots with no hesitation.”
Sanchez-Henry said the 13 forced turnovers in the third quarter were key in giving the Lions a lead and keeping it.
“Making those easy buckets after we get a steal helps us change the tempo of the game,” she said. “It allows us to get in the press and force more turnovers.”
Marriotts Ridge got within nine points late in the fourth period, but the Lions were able to stave off the Mustangs.
While the Mustangs didn’t win either game, Sarah Miller said playing well against Howard shows her players that they can beat anyone.
“You can play with anyone in the county right now,” Miller said. “We have the ability to go over the top.”
Both teams are back in action Tuesday. Howard travels to Reservoir — the team to play the Lions the closest this season when the Gators lost by only five on Jan. 8. Marriotts Ridge, meanwhile, plays at Hammond.
Howard 56, Marriotts Ridge 46
Ho (11-0, 17-0): G. Scott 16, A. Harris 16, M. Sanchez-Henry 8, C. Malagar 5, E. Durkee 5, G. Kennerly 4, S. Nasir 2.
MR (7-4, 12-5): E. Miller 15, M. Lee 12, E. Morath 8, C. Meininger 6, A. Windsor 2, C. Crawford 2, K. Bryan 1.
Halftime: 29-24, Ho
Centennial 58, Atholton 43
Mt. Hebron 59, Wilde Lake 37
The win is the Vikings’ sixth straight. During the winning streak, senior Tori Valentine is scoring 25.5 points per game, and she added 28 more against the Wildecats. Valentine was 12 of 19 from the field, grabbing eight rebounds and tallying seven steals. Mt. Hebron led only 28-25 at halftime, but the Vikings held Wilde Lake to 12 points in the second half. Mia Swaby-Rowe led the Wildecats with 16 points.
MH (9-3, 11-6): T. Valentine 28, E. Dixon 7, R. Vidal 7, N. Bodziak 6, A. Unkenholz 5, K. Milano 2, E. Hollis 2, A. Harrington 2.
WL (5-7, 7-9): M. Swaby-Rowe 16, C. Zimmerman 9, K. Corkeron 8, N. Brown 4.
Halftime: 28-25, MH
River Hill 62, Glenelg 20
The Hawks sprinted out to a 19-2 lead in the first quarter and a 33-8 advantage at halftime. Senior captains Saniha Jackson and Kennedy Clark scored 23 and 19 points, respectively, in the triumph. Sophomore Caroline Duffy chipped in with 12 points in the paint.
RH (12-1, 15-4): S. Jackson 23, K. Clark 19, C. Duffy 12, A. Thompson 6, A. Smith 2.
G (1-11, 3-14): L. LaPointe 4, A. Cook 4, G. Tolbert 4, J. Torres 4, M. Sloan 3, S. Salafia 1.
Halftime: 33-8, RH
Hammond 58, Long Reach 47
Jocelyn Fogle and Maya Woodson led the Golden Bears to their fifth win of the season. The triumph snaps a five-game losing streak for Hammond. Fogle scored 20 points, while Woodson tallied 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. The 47 points is by far the highest total for Long Reach this season. The Lightning were led by freshman Tamir Whittle, who scored a career-high 23 points.
Ha (3-10, 5-13): J. Fogle 20, M. Woodson 17, D. Britt 9, K. Brown 4, H. Chambers 4, M. Newby 2, R. Smoot 2.
LR (0-12, 0-16): T. Whittle 23, J. Okiji 8, R. McDaniel 4, O. Aofolaju 4, R. Baldwin 4, J. Putman 2, S. Sims 2.
Halftime: 30-22, Ha
Reservoir 63, Oakland Mills 49
After leading by only one point entering the fourth quarter, the Gators outscored the the Scorpions 22-9 in the final eight minutes. Tiffany Hooker led the Gators with 26 points, but she wasn’t the main scorer in the fourth quarter. Daniah Moultrie scored eight points and Laiya Hardie chipped in with six in the final period. The Gators overcame injuries to Kate Abunassar and Maddy Davis, who both rolled their ankles in the game. Jazmine Washington led the Scorpions with 25 points. Jaidyn Harris (15.5 points per game) didn’t play in the loss.
Re (9-3, 13-5): T. Hooker 26, L. Hardie 13, D. Moultrie 8, M. Davis 4, K. Holmes 4, R. Malwitz 4, L. Dudzinski 2, K. Abunassar 2.
OM (5-8, 9-9): J. Washington 25, R. Fairbanks 9, K. Browne 5, T. McDuffie 5, J. Anderson 3, R. Bynum 2.
Halftime: 26-24, OM