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Reservoir's Tiffany Hooker is averaging 30.9 points per game in the Gators' first eight games of the season.
Reservoir's Tiffany Hooker is averaging 30.9 points per game in the Gators' first eight games of the season. (Nicole Munchel for The Baltimore/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The game plan for Howard girls basketball coach Scott Robinson heading into his team’s recent game against Reservoir, like it has been all winter for coaches around the area, was rather straight forward — force the ball into the hands of someone other than Tiffany Hooker.

The task was simple. Executing it, however, was not.

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Locked in a tight game late in the second half, having watched Hooker already eclipse 30 points on the evening, Robinson preached a familiar message as soon as the Gators took possession.

“Don’t let her get the ball,” he yelled.

“Don’t let her get it.”

“Don’t let her get it.”

Hooker wasn’t to be denied, though. She eventually created enough separation to get the ball from her teammate and Robinson could only watch as she split through a pair of defenders to make a contested layup.

Ultimately Howard won the game, but Hooker finished with 36 points — a point total that is rare in high school girls basketball but is quickly becoming the new norm for Reservoir’s senior guard.

“We tried to prevent her from getting the ball, but she’s so fast,” said Robinson, who has coached in Howard County for 27 years. “I’ve been doing this a long time, boys and girls, and I don’t remember going against somebody who had an individual performance like she did [on Wednesday]. That was daunting to say the least. ... She’s a legit D-I player.”

The Howard girls basketball team defeated visiting Reservoir, 68-63, on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.

The game was just the latest data point in Hooker’s unprecedented start to her senior season. She’s averaging 30.9 points per game through the Gators’ first eight contests — a scoring average that is 10 points more than any other girls or boys player in the county.

“I just want to win. My mindset is all about winning,” said Hooker, a Smith College (Division III) commit. “What I’m doing now is probably what most of my teammates and coaches expect of me. I don’t focus on [the points]. My main stat is just to win, not what my individual stats are. I just want to get to that end goal of winning a regional championship and making it to states. Anything other than that isn’t important to me.”

No Howard County girls basketball player has ever averaged 30 points per game for a season, with Oakland Mills’ Miriam McKenzie holding the unofficial single-season scoring record after averaging 27.5 points per game in 2008. Hooker still has 15 regular-season games left, but if Howard — the best team in Howard County that is ranked No. 4 and is undefeated — can’t slow down Hooker, can anyone?

“Teams are going to try to stop me, so I just need to find a way to get open,” Hooker said. “I don’t like to lose, so in the end I have to do whatever is necessary to make sure they don’t stop me. I’m prepared for these teams to throw new defenses at us. If I can find open teammates with my passes and keep shooting well, you can’t stop me."

What makes Hooker such a lethal scoring threat is her rare combination of intelligence, athletic ability and skill. She reads defenses well, has speed to get open off ball or create separation with her dribble, and is an accurate shooter from well beyond the 3-point arc.

“She scores from all three levels, and that’s rare,” Reservoir coach Deb Taylor said. “She has an outstanding shooting percentage from three, and she also has body control so she can finish in traffic. But she also has a pull-up jumper. When she goes by her defender and the defense closes, she can stop and pop in the mid-range game. When you have a kid who can score in so many ways, it’s hard to stop."

Even more impressive than Hooker’s scoring average is her efficiency. She has to put up a significant number of shots to average 30 points a night, but she’s scoring at clips that makes it logical for her to shoot 20-plus times a game. She’s shooting 46% from the field, 44% from behind the arc and 78% from the free-throw line. She’s also averaging 3.2 assists and 3.8 steals per game.

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“Tiffany creating a shot with two defenders on her is a high-percentage shot,” said Taylor, who is in her fifth season as Reservoir’s head coach. “I trust her basketball knowledge and her instincts. We have completely given her the green light because her decision-making is good and her percentages are terrific.”

“It doesn’t mean as much if you just jack up shots,” Hooker said. “If you’re shooting efficiently, it makes scoring a lot much more meaningful.”

While no one could have expected Hooker to average 30 points per game through the first third of the season, the senior point guard didn’t come out of nowhere. She averaged 17 points per game last season, which ranked fourth in the county. As a junior, though, Hooker played alongside senior Emily Dorn (18.9 points per game) to create the best scoring duo in the county.

“With Emily Dorn last year, the two of them had the ability to take over a game. She gained that confidence last season,” Taylor said. “Last year, she really started to see the game before it happened. That was her biggest growth.”

Entering the season, Hooker knew she’d have to take over as the Gators’ top scoring threat with Dorn gone. She scored 26 in an opening-night win over Mt. Hebron and 27 more in a blowout victory over Hammond. She then set her career-high with 31 points in an overtime loss to Centennial, but it was the 31 points she scored in a close win over Meade on Dec. 18 that made Taylor realize what Hooker was doing was more than just a hot streak. Hooker had four points at halftime, after sitting out most of the second quarter due to foul trouble, but regrouped to finish the contest with 27 points over the final 16 minutes.

“I don’t know if anybody could have expected this,” Taylor said. “Losing Emily’s scoring ability, we knew we’d need Tiffany to score 20 a game to be competitive. But our offense isn’t geared for her to score 30. She’s just been so good, and that’s how it’s gone so far.”

Hooker then led Reservoir to a Holiday Tournament championship with wins over Concordia Prep (24 points) and Catonsville (35 points). She scored 28 points in the second half of the 53-49 win over the Comets to win the crown. Prior to her 36-point performance against Howard, Hooker scored a career-high 37 points — including 16 in the fourth quarter — in a 62-60 win over Oakland Mills.

“I do like to say it’s a different mode,” Hooker said about her big second halves. “It’s a realization or a spark that we’re [possibly] going to lose, and I step up for my team. That game against Meade made me realize I have a different mode, and I’ve been playing that way since.”

While Hooker is scoring nearly half of Reservoir’s points, she’s able to do that in part because of her teammates. Maddy Davis and Kate Abunassar are solid outside shooters, and the Gators have several post players who are good on the boards. There are also talented freshmen on the roster who are improving every day, Taylor said.

“Everybody on the team is important,” Hooker said. “We’re all so supportive of each other. This team is like a second family, and that’s what has [contributed] to our success and my success. We’re just one big happy family.”

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