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Relentless defensive intensity propels Howard girls basketball to a 64-28 victory over River Hill

Howard girls basketball took its home floor for the first time in 678 days, creating a buzz from the sideline to the bleachers.

Howard fed off the home crowd’s excitement, showcasing relentless defensive pressure with an early press that caused several turnovers and transition baskets. The Lions cruised to a 64-28 victory over River Hill, handing the Hawks their first loss of the season.

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This season is the Lions’ first since their 25-0 2020 season ended prematurely due to COVID-19.

“It meant so much I can’t even put it into words,” junior guard Gabby Kennerly said of being back on her home court. “The energy was so high. Even with having four people per person, we had a great turnout. Everybody just really brought it to us, it was great.”

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Leading 20-8 after one quarter, the Lions (4-0, 3-0) took firm control in the second. After River Hill senior Caroline Duffy scored the quarter’s first basket, Howard orchestrated a 23-0 run over the half’s final 7:26.

“I think a big part of our team is our defense, our communication,” senior Gabby Scott said of the run. “Everyone knows where they are and where they have to be. I feel like that’s a big part of it.”

That prolonged stretch was a microcosm of the Lions’ hounding perimeter defense and unselfish offense. Kennerly scored nine of her team-high 15 points over that span, causing turnovers and finding creases offensively.

Five different Lions chipped in baskets during the run, an example of the team’s fluidity and offensive balance. Overall, four of Howard’s five starters finished in double figures. Junior guard Samiyah Nasir tallied 12 points, while Scott and freshman Meghan Yarnevich each scored 10.

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“I thought the girls, particularly in the third quarter were making the extra pass,” Howard coach Scott Robinson said. “During that second-quarter run we were looking for the open girls. I think when we move the ball and we run good motion, that good things happen.”

With a commanding halftime lead, Howard’s intensity on both ends of the floor remained consistent. The Lions dictated the pace of play on both ends of the floor, all tracing back to their effort and positioning defensively.

River Hill’s offense still struggled to generate a flow. Senior Anhyia Smith was the Hawks’ only consistent source of offense throughout, finishing with a team-high 16 points.

“Howard just played hard,” River Hill coach Teresa Waters said as her team fell to 4-1, 3-1. “They played as a unit. They played well and the pressure defense that they applied was on point. Kudos to them, they played relentless defense. Then they were able to share the ball and everyone was in tune on the offensive end as well as the defensive end. We had not seen that kind of defense. I have a lot of young kids and they’ve never seen this. I wish I could play [Scott Robinson] every week, so we could get better. They executed and we did not.”

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