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Howard's Will Simmons talks about the Lions' 66-64 overtime win over Marriotts Ridge on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020.

A Howard program looking to change its fortunes after finishing last in the Howard County standings a year ago took a big step in the right direction on Friday night.

Will Simmons converted a put-back layup with two seconds left in overtime for what ended up being the deciding basket at the end of a back-and-forth game, as the Lions’ prevailed 66-64 over first-place Marriotts Ridge.

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Howard coach Seth Willingham, who has set his sights this winter squarely on trying to lead the Lions to the program’s first county title in over four decades, said the victory will go a long way toward changing the narrative moving forward.

“Last year we lost a lot of close games and I think slowly these kids are learning how to win, figuring out what it takes to execute in late-game situations,” Willingham said. “Marriotts Ridge is a tough team, they made some huge shots tonight. But to win a county title — which is absolutely the goal for us — you have to find a way to get these kind of games.”

Cooper Haberern led the way for Howard (2-1, 6-2) with 21 points, while Justin Hendricks (13), Ryan Kuehl (13) and Jeff Bruner all scored in double figures for the first time all winter. But in crunch time, it was two others that delivered the biggest points of the night for the Lions.

Darrion Harris scored his only basket of the game with 1:28 left in overtime to tie the game and then Simmons (5 points) cleaned up a Harris miss with just seconds remaining to seal the win.

“The whole plan was for Darrion to take the ball and go to the basket, and in my head I was like ‘Oh, he’s making it.’ But I knew I needed to get there just in case it bounced off and I’m usually good at rebounding on the opposite side,” Simmons said. “So I just posted up right there, the ball came right to me and I just put it up and it went in.”

At the end of a game that featured made buzzer-beating shots to close the second, third and fourth quarters, Marriotts Ridge (3-1, 6-3) had a chance at another that would have potentially won the game. John Miller’s desperation heave bounced off the backboard, however, and Howard was the one doing the celebrating.

Miller finished with a team-high 19 points and Austin Avent was right behind him with 16 points in the loss. Despite the setback, though, Marriotts Ridge coach Tim Brady said he was pleased with the fight of his team.

The Mustangs came back from a 54-41 deficit with 4:51 remaining in regulation to force the extra period, with a banked-in 3-pointer from Ira Snell (5 points) tying the game at 60 as time expired at the end of the fourth quarter.

“It’s really good for these guys to experience games like this now, because all the games are like that in the playoffs,” Brady said. “These are the kind of games that make you better and I was proud of how hard we fought those last six minutes of the fourth quarter to get back in it. The caveat to that is that we got outworked in the second and third quarter, so that’s what we’re going to focus on.

“But if there’s such a thing as a good loss, this is it.”

Howard didn’t get its first lead of the night until the midway point of the third quarter following an old-fashioned three-point play from Simmons that made the score 33-32. But the Lions heated up from long range as the game wore on, making six 3-point shots in a seven-minute stretch between the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth to take the team’s largest lead of the night.

“We started running our offense, that was all that changed. That first quarter we were completely out of sorts,” said Willingham, whose team scored just four points in the opening eight minutes. “We started out trying to dribble through everyone, but once we started making four or five passes and got their defense moving then we found some gaps and got some open looks.”

Marriotts Ridge fought back, though. The Mustangs hit five threes of their own over the final 4:41 of regulation, including the shot by Snell that extended the game and sent the Marriotts Ridge student section into a frenzy.

Brady said it started with turning things up defensively.

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“We switched to full-court man-to-man with full denial and decided that we were going to keep working until we were dead,” he said. “We left everything we had out there.”

In overtime, Marriotts Ridge held two-point leads following made foul shots from Snell and a jumper from Miller. But Howard answered each time and then eventually got the decisive basket when it counted.

Howard returns to action Wednesday on the road against Reservoir, while Marriotts Ridge will travel to face Hammond that same day.

Howard 66, Marriotts Ridge 64 OT

Ho (2-1, 6-2): Haberern 21, Hendricks 13, Kuehl 13, Bruner 10, Simmons 5, Harris 2, Brown 2.

MR (3-1, 6-3): Miller 19, Avent 16, Ryan 8, Page 6, Snell 5, Groman 3, James 3, Bryan 2, Tran 2.

Half: 27-23 MR; Regulation: 60-60.

Other scores:

Centennial 61, Atholton 58

The Eagles held narrow leads at the end of every quarter en route to the road victory over the Raiders. Joey Sedlacko scored a game-high 23 points, while Bryson Baker and Brandon Bonner joined him in double figure with 10 points apiece. Matt Schickner also chipped in with eight points.

Jordan Oates led Atholton with 18 points.

C (3-1, 6-2): Sedlacko 23, Baker 10, Bonner 10, Schickner 8, Hwang 6, Taylor 4.

A (2-2, 6-3): Oates 18, Rankin 13, Brown 12, Daniel 10, Miller 3, Nwaklor 2.

Half: 33-29 C.

Oakland Mills 71, Reservoir 59

The Scorpions stayed red hot, defeating the visiting Gators for the team’s sixth straight win this winter. Truth Norton dropped in a game-high 24 points, while Ahmed Diaby (16 points), Barry Evans (13) and DJ Hopkins (10) also scored in double figures.

Jaylen Manning (18 points), Kaleb Glasper (15) and Rashod Ballard (12) were the leaders in the loss for Reservoir.

OM (2-1, 6-2): Norton 24, Diaby 16, Evans 13, Hopkins 10, Jackson 6, Simpson 2.

Re (2-2, 4-3): Manning 18, Glasper 15, Ballard 12, Hill 7, Ameli 3, Ha 2, Jerry 2.

Half: 34-27 OM.

Wilde Lake 72, Mt. Hebron 55

Brince Shelton scored 11 of his 20 points in the first quarter, as the Wildecats raced out to a 23-11 lead and never slowed down from there. Marcus Mitchell added 13 of his game-high 21 points in the second quarter to help Wilde Lake increase its lead to 45-25 at the break. Stanley Lowe also finished in double figures with 13 points.

Wilde Lake (3-0 county) is now the only undefeated team left in league play.

WL (3-0, 6-1): Mitchell 21, Shelton 20, Lowe 13, Burris 8, Boampong 4, Adams 4, Monk 2.

MH (0-4, 4-6): Millen 13, Nazaire 10, Lewis 9, Michelotti 8, Ichrist 5, Cargiulo 4, Bates 4, Brown 2.

Half: 45-25 WL.

Glenelg 51, River Hill 49 2OT

The Gladiators prevailed in double overtime behind big games from Max Pearcy (19 points), Nate Curtis (10), Eddie Della Russo (8) and Jack Walsh (8). The contest was low-scoring throughout with Glenelg leading 6-5 at the end of the first quarter and 15-13 at the half.

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River Hill, which was led by Ethan Smith (17 points) and Christian Myers (11), rebounded to take a 24-20 lead by the end of the third quarter. But Glenelg forced overtime with a strong fourth quarter and then Walsh hit a three with 10 seconds left in the first overtime to extend things even further. In the decisive period, Pearcy hit a three and the Gladiators made six of eight from the foul line.

All six of the Hawks’ losses this season have been by six points or less, including three county defeats in overtime.

G (2-1, 5-3): Pearcy 19, Nate Curtis 10, Walsh 8, Della Russo 8, Tolbert 2, Dry 2, Owens 2.

RH (0-5, 2-6): Smith 17, Myers 11, McKoy 7, Feeney 6, Graves 5, Saliu 2, Jahangir 1.

Half: 15-13 G. Regulation: 36-36. 1st OT: 42-42.

Long Reach 64, Hammond 36

The Lightning built a 23-point lead at the half and never looked back on the way to the team’s second county win. Kojo Addo (18 points) and Kobe Malloy (11) led the offense.

LR (2-2, 4-5): Addo 18, Malloy 11, Yarbough 8, Olivis 8, Brown 7, Zaky 4, Raymond 3, Saunders 2, Lado 2, Simms 1.

Ha (1-3, 4-5): Aodu 9, Johnson 6, Thomas 4, Bennett 4, Mair 4, King 4, Alexandre 3, Moore 2.

Half: 40-17 LR.

Glenelg Country 63, Calvert Hall 53

GC (4-2, 7-4): Brathwaite 18, Yoka-Bratasz 14, Batchelor 13, Charles 11, Robinson 7.

CH: Foxwell 16, Williams 11, Bogues 8, Biggers 8, Oknayran 5, Allen 3, Harris 2.

Half: 27-24 CH.

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