As one of the top players in Howard County, Mt. Hebron girls basketball point guard Tori Valentine is scoring around 44 percent of the Vikings’ points this season.
Valentine, who is averaging 21.5 points per game, is the lone senior on Mt. Hebron, and secondary scoring has been an area for growth for the young Vikes.
Well, they may not be so young anymore.
Mt. Hebron’s supporting cast played its best game of the season Friday night to lead the Vikings to a 49-33 win over host Marriotts Ridge in a game that had pivotal playoff seeding implications. Erin Dixon (13 points), Ashley Unkenholz (11 points) and Kate Milano (10 points) led Hebron to the key victory to end the regular season, while Valentine finished with nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
“We know that she can’t do it all,” said sophomore Erin Dixon about Valentine. “If we don’t score and step up, then we’ll lose. We all have to contribute.”
The game was a battle for a first-round bye in the 3A East Region I state playoff bracket. With the win, Vikings head coach Tierney Ahearn said Mt. Hebron (12-4 Howard County, 13-6 overall) is expected to be the No. 2 seed, with Westminster (14-6) as the top seed. Marriotts Ridge (10-6, 13-7), meanwhile, is expected to be the No. 3 seed, according to Mustangs coach Sarah Miller, and will likely play Wilde Lake in the first round.
“I think they’re so incredibly well coached,” Ahearn said of Marriotts Ridge. “They play great team basketball. We play a similar style that I felt that if their shots fell and ours didn’t, the game could’ve been completely opposite. This is no indication of what could happen next time.”
“Hopefully we’ll get to see them again in the playoffs,” Miller said. “That’s probably how things will work out in the second or third round. We just didn’t take care of business tonight like we needed to.”
The Vikings took control of the game at Marriotts Ridge High School from the tip and led 17-5 at the end of the first quarter. The Mustangs battled back to trail 19-13 midway through the second quarter, but that was the closest they’d get to the Vikings, who ended the half on 7-0 run to enter halftime up 26-13.
The 33-point performance from Marriotts Ridge’s offense was the second lowest output this season and much lower than what the Mustangs have been averaging this month (53.4 points per game). The Stangs ended the game 11 of 44 from the field versus 22 of 51 for the Vikes.
“In the first half, we had six layups rim off and two 3-pointers dip out. If we knock down half of those, we’re in the game,” Miller said. “Then we did a good job of holding (Valentine) down, but her teammates picked her up. The role players knocked down more shots tonight than I’ve seen them knock down in any film all season.”
While Valentine only scored nine points, which is her second lowest output of the season, Ahearn said her all-around performance as a passer, rebounder and defender proved she’s one of the best players in the county.
Friday’s win was only the second game all season Valentine didn’t finish first in scoring for her team. The first instance was Hebron’s 51-31 win over Wilde Lake on Jan. 3 when Audrey Harrington scored 16 points to Valentine’s 14.
“She’s one of the best players, if not the best player, on the floor every night,” Ahearn said. “Those girls making shots took some pressure off Tori She learned that her teammates are reliable at this point.”
The Vikings then went on a 15-3 run to open the second half to lead 41-17 early in the fourth period. Unkenholz made three 3-pointers in the game, including two in the second half, to extend Hebron’s lead. Her 11-point performance is a career-high for the junior guard.
“She’s a phenomenal defender, and she makes our team better,” Ahearn said. “She’s that diamond in the rough kid. She’s a critical player for us, and I love coaching her.”
The Mustangs made a run in the fourth quarter to trail by 13 points late in the game, but it was too late for a full comeback. Kendall Bryan led the Mustangs with 14 points, including four 3-pointers.
Dixon, who is averaging 8.6 points per game as a sophomore, is the Vikings’ second best scorer. Despite opening the game 0 of 5 from the field, Dixon bounced back to make six of her next 10 shots to end with 13 points, which is her seventh time in the last 11 games scoring in double figures.
“I feel like a lot of Erin’s game is mental,” Milano said. “We want her to keep shooting, because we know she can make them.”
Milano then capped of the game’s scoring with a long two-pointer that energized the Vikings’ bench. Milano, a scrappy post player, scored a career-high 10 points in the win. Going up against the tallest team in Howard County, Milano, a junior center, and Harrington, a sophomore forward, were key for the Vikings down low.
“She means a lot to our team, Dixon said of Milano. “She’s one of our bigs, and she’s very athletic. She hustles a lot, she’s tough and she’ll go after loose balls.”
Both teams await their official MPSSAA Class 3A playoff seedings on Tuesday. The first round of the 3A East Region I playoffs are next weekend.
Mt. Hebron 49, Marriotts Ridge 33
MH (12-4, 14-7): E. Dixon 13, A. Unkenholz 11, K. Milano 10, T. Valentine 9, A. Harrington 6,
MR (10-6, 15-7): K. Bryan 14, E. Morath 9, M. Lee 4, E. Miller 3, N. Held 2, C. Crawford 1.
Halftime: 26-13, MH
Howard 61, Wilde Lake 27
The victory gives the Howard girls basketball team its first undefeated season in program history. The dominant win was emblematic of the Lions’ season, as 19 of Howard’s 22 wins came by double-digit points. On average this season, the Lions outscored their opponents by 25.9 points per game.
The win was also representative of the Lions’ season in terms of their scoring output, as four different players scored eight or more points against the Wildecats. Gabby Scott led the way with 16 points, while Marisa Sanchez-Henry, Gabby Kennerly and Anii Harris chipped in with 10, nine and eight points, respectively. Meanwhile, the Wildecats were led by Mia Swaby-Rowe’s eight points.
The win also clinched the outright Howard County championship for Howard. The Lions have won or shared the county title for the last five seasons. They will move on to the MPSSAA Class 4A playoffs. The Lions are expected to be the No. 1 seed in the the 4A East Region I bracket. As the only Howard County team in Class 4A, the Lions join Anne Arundel County teams Arundel, Glen Burnie, Meade, North County and Old Mill in 4A East Region I. The official state playoff seeds will be released Tuesday.
Ho (16-0, 22-0): G. Scott 16, M. Sanchez-Henry 10, G. Kennerly 9, A. Harris 8, C. Malagar 5, S. Nasir 4, K. McDuffie 4, E. Durkee 3, L. Fritz 2.
WL (6-10, 8-12): M. Swaby-Rowe 8, K. Corkeron 7, B. Floyd 6, C. Zimmerman 6.
Halftime: 27-13, Ho
Reservoir 80, Glenelg 47
Reservoir senior Tiffany Hooker set a new career high in the 33-point victory. The point guard tallied 41 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals on the Gators’ Senior Night. The game was just the latest data point in Hooker’s standout season. She’s averaging a league-high 26.8 points per game, which is more than five points more than any other player in the county. The 41 points are the most any player has scored in a single game in the last three seasons. It was the 11th 30-point game from Hooker this season and the sixth time she’s set a new career high. Amani Pressley, the Gators’ only other senior, scored seven points and tallied four steals and three rebounds. Freshman Lauren LaPointe led the Gladiators with 13 points.
Re (11-5, 15-7): T. Hooker 41, K. Abunassar 9, A. Pressley 7, R. Malwitz 6, L. Hardie 6, A. Jenne 3, K. Holmes 2, L. Dudzinski 2, D. Moultrie 2, A. Pennington 2.
G (1-15, 3-19): L. LaPointe 13, Krunkaitis 8, S. Salafia 7, J. Hirsch 6, A. Cook 6, M. Sloan 3, L. Davis 3, N. Stewart 1.
Halftime: 40-18, Re
Atholton 73, Long Reach 33
Balanced scoring led the Raiders to the blowout win. Kennedy Brown, Laila Cowsette, Samara Mims, Madison McCabe and Erica Morton all scored eight or more points in the win. Brown and Cowsette led the way with 14 points each, while Tamir Whittle led the Lightning with 14 points.
A (5-11, 6-14): K. Brown 14, L. Cowsette 14, S. Mims 10, M. McCabe 8, E. Morton 8, M. Hargrett 8, T. Kidd 5, A. Barker 4, K. Munro 2.
LR (0-16, 0-20): T. Whittle 14, A. Nagle 7, S. Sims 7, J. Okiji 3, J. Putman 2.
Halftime: 41-14, A
Centennial 51, Hammond 33
Stout defense once again led the Eagles to victory. After leading by only two points at halftime, Centennial held Hammond to four points in each of the last two quarters en route to the convincing win. Brook Anderson and Lauren Pellegrini led the way with 15 and 14 points, respectively, while Maya Woodson and Jocelyn Fogle paced the Golden Bears with nine points each.
C (10-6, 13-9): B. Anderson 15, L. Pellegrini 14, A. Urquiaga 6, T. Pearson 6, O. Reese 4, O. Jackson 3, C. LasCasas 3.
Ha (3-13, 5-17): M. Woodson 9, J. Fogle 9, K. Brown 7, K. Beahm 3, M. Newby 3, D. Britt 2.