Friday was just another night at the office for Tiffany Hooker.
The Reservoir senior guard scored 34 points to lead the Gators to a 68-56 win over host Atholton. The performance is Hooker’s seventh game with 30-plus points this season, as the leading scorer in Howard County is now averaging 27.8 points per game.
“When she’s on like she was tonight, she’s so hard to stop,” said Reservoir head coach Deb Taylor.
Hooker made six 3-pointers in the first half as Reservoir (6-3 Howard County, 10-4 overall) took a 37-22 lead at halftime. She was 11 of 25 from the floor and 6 of 7 from the charity stripe.
“It’s amazing to watch her,” said teammate Kate Abunassar, who scored eight points in the win. “Everyone hypes her up, and it makes her shoot even better. I know she’s going to go very far.”
Tiffany Hooker, who led all scorers with 34 points, talks Reservoir girls basketball after the Gators defeated Atholton, 68-56, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.
While Hooker’s unprecedented scoring has been the story of nearly every one of Reservoir’s victories, the Gators’ recent improvement is attributed to their secondary scorers. Reservoir lost three straight games in early January but has won four straight since.
“I think we are improving,” Hooker said. “Once you hit a barrier, success comes through after that. You can’t be successful without failing. We had a tough week, but we’ve come out since and played better.”
As opposing teams throw schemes to slow down Hooker — like a box-and-one or a triangle-and-two, which Atholton incorporated on Friday — the Gators have adjusted. Hooker dished out seven assists — along with six rebounds and four steals — against Atholton (3-6, 4-9), with Laiya Hardie, Kate Abunassar and Lizzie Dudzinski making open shots to chip in with 10, eight and seven points, respectively.
“We’ve worked really hard at sharing the ball and getting other people involved,” Taylor said. “I think that was the difference between the first half and the second half. The shots weren’t as easy in the second half (for Hooker), so she passed the ball more. ... Tiffany’s assists should go up against defenses like that.”
Atholton opened its home game without sophomore Mia Hargrett — one of the best defensive guards in the county — defending Hooker, who promptly made four 3-pointers in the first quarter and two more in the second period.
“We started out flat. We didn’t come out with the intensity we needed when you play a team like (Reservoir),” said Atholton head coach Julia Reynold. “Tiffany is a very good player. She can create shots for herself off the dribble. We had someone else on her early, because we didn’t want to get into foul trouble. We did a much better job of containing her in the second half.”
Reservoir turned its 20-12 lead at the end of the first quarter into a 37-22 advantage at halftime. While Atholton remained within striking distance in the second half, the Gators never lost control. Dudzinski and freshman forward Amaya Pennington played a key roles down low in the second half, as the two players combined for 11 points in the final 16 minutes.
“Lizzie was terrific,” Taylor said. “She’s a great defender and rebounder, but what she did offensively tonight was huge.”
Hardie, a freshman guard, followed up her career-high, 13-point performance against Wilde Lake last Friday with her second double-digit performance of her young career.
“Laiya is another kid with a lot of ability who had to learn the game and play under control,” Taylor said. “She is doing that now. Her basketball IQ has come up, and her decision making is much improved.”
After struggling in the first half, Raiders leading scorer Laila Cowsette (13.3 points per game) scored 13 points in the second half to finish the game with 18. Atholton has dealt with injuries all season, with at least one starter missing in each of its losses.
Sophomore Kennedy Brown, who missed six games in the middle of the season, played her best game of the season and scored 11 points.
“It’s wonderful to have her back at this point,” Reynold said. “She’s worked really hard. It was a tough beginning to the season, and she had to put in extra time to make sure she was healthy. She’s continuing to get more comfortable in her role.”
Both teams are back in action Wednesday. Reservoir hosts Long Reach, while Atholton plays at Mt. Hebron.
Reservoir 68, Atholton 56
Re (6-3, 10-4): T. Hooker 34, L. Hardie 10, K. Abunassar 8, L. Dudzinski 7, A. Pennington 4, M. Davis 3, R. Malwitz 2.
A (3-6, 4-9): L. Cowsette 18, M. Hargrett 13, K. Brown 11, E. Morton 6, N. Blair 5, T. Kidd 2, S. Mims 1.
Halftime: 37-22, Re
Centennial 51, Dulaney 42
Brook Anderson got back on track in Centennial’s win over Dulaney. She scored in double figures in the Eagles’ first 10 games of the season but hadn’t cleared the mark in the team’s last two games. She made three 3-pointers in the win and made three free throws to help seal the win in the fourth quarter. Also leading the Eagles to victory was Lauren Pellegrini, who scored all 12 of her points in the second half. The Eagles trailed by three points at halftime but outscored Dulaney 20-8 in the final eight minutes.
C (4-4, 6-7): B. Anderson 18, L. Pellegrini 12, O. Reese 11, T. Pearson 6, O. Jackson 2, G. Castle-Smith 2.
D: White 17, Valentine 8, Lodge 7, Vail 6, Carter 4.
Halftime: 21-20, C
Oakland Mills 58, Wilde Lake 37
Kaity Browne tied her career-high with 15 points in the win. The freshman played a key role in the paint for Oakland Mills as the Scorpions went on a 20-6 run in the third quarter. Jaidyn Harris led the Scorps with 20 points, while Jazmine Washington chipped in with 18 points.
OM (5-4, 9-5): J. Harris 20, J. Washington 18, K. Browne 15, T. McDuffie 3, R. Fairbanks 2.