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High School sports

Howard girls basketball earns Class 3A East Region I title, defeating Manchester Valley, 77-40

As the final buzzer sounded at Howard High, a sea of white jerseys jumped in jubilation at halfcourt.

The top-seeded Lions girls basketball team reached another milestone — its second consecutive Class 3A East Region I championship — with a 77-40 victory over second-seeded Manchester Valley.

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After their undefeated season ended prematurely two years ago because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Lions moved one step closer to reaching their ultimate goal.

“It means everything to us,” senior Gabby Scott said of capturing the regional title. “I know no season last year gave us so much motivation. I know it means a lot to us, to coach and this family that we have.”

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While building a 13-point lead after the first quarter, junior guards Gabby Kennerly and Samiyah Nasir helped set the tone on both ends of the floor. Kennerly attacked the basket at will, scoring nine of her game- and season-high 28 points in the opening quarter. Nasir showcased her tenacious perimeter defense with several steals, leading to easy transition buckets on her way to scoring a season-high 18 points.

“They’re both great players and great girls,” Howard coach Scott Robinson said. “I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to coach them. Samiyah is just a ridiculous defender; she’s got unbelievably quick feet and quick hands. Both of them set the tone, Gabby Kennerly offensively. Both of them were phenomenal tonight and those two set the tone for the day.”

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Feeding on their momentum from the opening quarter, the Lions scored a game-high 21 points in the second. Kennerly continued to flourish attacking the basket, while junior guard Jenna Vetter added several transition buckets.

Midway through the quarter, Kennerly converted a 3-point play against Carmaya Bowman, forcing one of the Mavericks’ key starters to the bench with three fouls. For Manchester Valley, Taylor Leaman scored eight of her team-high 12 points in the first half. The Lions led 41-21 at the break, dictating the pace of play while showcasing their offensive versatility.

“We have to adjust to playing people taller than us,” Manchester Valley coach Heather DeWees said. “We haven’t seen that kind of height the whole season. They’re big and they’re athletic. So, it’s not like they’re stagnant, they’re aggressive players. I’m really proud of what we do because we haven’t seen that the whole season and I think that power just made us a lot better.”

With a substantial lead entering the second half, Howard only grew stronger. Over a 2:15 stretch in the third quarter, the Lions executed a 10-0 stretch, ballooning the lead to 30. That run was a quintessential example of Howard’s quick-strike ability.

“We knew we had to keep the lead, getting steals and stuff,” Nasir said. “We just had to keep the momentum of the team going.”

Down the stretch, Robinson subbed out the Lions’ starters, who went to the bench to roars from the packed cheering section. Seniors Waverly Wheeler and Kaylee Delossantos tallied back-to-back baskets in the final 90 seconds, galvanizing an already joyful Howard bench. The Lions advanced to the state quarterfinals, where the eight region winners will be reseeded based on their regular-season record.

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“Knowing that we have the potential to go where we want to go, coming out this strong in a regional final game, that just is pushing us to do better,” Kennerly said.


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