Reservoir boys basketball coach Mike Coughlan understands that with a few defensive stops, his team could have brought a 7-0 county record into Monday night's game at Glenelg.
Following five straight wins to start league play, the Gators suffered a 53-51 road loss to Wilde Lake on Jan. 12. Then came a season-low 47-point showing on Friday night in a one-point home defeat against Marriotts Ridge.
So, late in a one-score, back-and-forth affair with the Gladiators, Coughlan reminded his group of those recent struggles while emphasizing it had yet another chance to close out a tight contest.
And this time, his players delivered.
In the final 75 seconds of a 50-48 win, the Gators forced the sure-handed Garrett Mills into two consecutive turnovers, made five of their six free throws and overcame an and-1 dunk that threatened to send the contest into overtime. They were finally on the other side of a gut-wrenching defeat.
"It's exactly what we needed," Coughlan said, "because we had been through it the last couple of times and just didn't finish."
Several players contributed to the success of Reservoir (6-2 county, 8-4 overall) down the stretch.
Junior KyJuan McCallum missed a contested jumper and was called for a charge in the final minutes, but he responded by pestering Mills (team-high 17 points) to help force the aforementioned giveaways. Junior Grant Okolo capitalized on those turnovers by converting a transition layup and making two free throws to help the Gators regain the lead with about 20 seconds to play. And the Gators may not have been in that position if not for sophomore Ryan Saunderson, who hit back-to-back 3-pointers early on and ended up scoring a season-high 14 points.
However, some of the biggest plays of the win came from junior Josh Odunowo after giving up a potential game-changing dunk.
As the clock ticked below 20 seconds with Glenelg down three, Odunowo expected the Gladiators to hoist a potential game-tying 3-pointer. So, as Davis floated towards the perimeter with the ball at the left elbow, Odunowo jumped out towards him, leaving himself exposed to a backdoor pass. Davis proceeded to cut towards the basket, receive the ball and go up for a one-handed slam with Odunowo draped over him.
The referees signaled for a foul, meaning Glenelg could tie the game with the free throw. All Odunowo focused on was the next play.
"I've been dunked on way worse," said Odunowo, who finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds. "It doesn't really matter to me. At the end of the day, nothing is going to happen — it's already happened — so I just had to look towards the future and do what I could do to impact the game."
Odunowo did so by corralling the missed foul shot and then making two of his own. The Gators were back up three with about six seconds remaining.
Brent Kennedy, Tim Schwartz and Kyle Stackpole discuss the latest in Howard County sports in this edition of Howard County Times Sports Podcast.
Brent Kennedy starts the podcast by asking Kyle Stackpole about the boys basketball teams who have shown they can compete with River Hill atop the county.
At the 1:30 mark, Kyle touches on Wilde Lake, which seems to have found its rhythm after a tough start to the season. Brent and Kyle also talk about who among the other middle-tier teams have the potential to jump into the top tier.
At the 7:20 mark, Kyle sits down with River Hill seniors Jacob Krause, Jaden Martin and Dylan Daniels and asks the trio about their current success, the emergence of Krause as a scoring threat and what the Hawks can still improve on.
The focus shifts to the county landscape at the 10:58 mark, with the players describing some teams they think have overachieved or underperformed and the opposing players that have stood out this year. The players also give their Super Bowl picks.
With River Hill’s toughest stretch of the season on the horizon, the trio explains at the 17:25 mark what needs to happen for the team to keep winning games. Do that, and the Hawks will be county champions for the second straight year.
During the ensuing timeout, Glenelg coach Jansen McMillan drew up a play where Mills would drive down the left side and flip the ball to sharpshooter Johnny Piwowarski for a 3-pointer. But when Mills saw the defender stay with Piwowarski, he decided to take the wide-open layup instead, which fell through the net with just a second to play.
So, even when Saunderson's second free throw clanked off the rim moments later, the Gladiators (4-5, 6-8) didn't have enough time to hoist a game-winning attempt. It marked the second time in four days they lost a league game by three points or less.
"We need to find our rhythm," McMillan said. "They play good defense. They jammed us, knocked us off our routes. We just had to make a couple plays, and we turned the ball over and gave them too many possessions, so that hindered our chances to score more points. Hats off to Reservoir."
Re — Saunderson 14, Odunowo 11, Okolo 11, Barrett 5, Ricketts 4, Toler 3, Moore 2.
G — Mills 17, Davis 8, Koele 7, Dick 6, Taylor 4, Piwowarski 3, Boswell 2, Soltis 1.
Half: 21-17, G
Around Howard County
River Hill (9-0, 14-1) — 57, Centennial (4-6, 6-8) — 52
River Hill maintained its two-and-a-half game lead over second-place Reservoir in the county standings by holding off a surging Centennial team on Monday night.
A balanced scoring attack helped the Hawks build a 36-22 halftime lead, only to see the senior Andrew Hohmann score a 11 of his team's 18 points in the third quarter. Entering the final frame, the Eagles trailed by just seven.
But Centennial couldn't complete the comeback, as the senior guard trio of Jaden Martin, Jacob Krause and Luke Champion proved too much to handle. Martin led the team with 17 points, while coach Matt Graves said Champion hit a "huge" 3-pointer to put the Hawks back up 11 and seal the victory.
RH — Martin 17, Champion 12, Krause 12, Okojie 7, Mann 3, Hirsch 2, Kraket 2, McKenna 2.
Marriotts Ridge secured its second straight county win on Monday night behind a splendid shooting performance from junior forward Brandon Held. Held hit four first-half 3-pointers — nearly totaling his 12.9 points per game season scoring average — and added two more triples after intermission. He finished the game with a season-high 25 points.
Held's hot start helped the Mustangs amass 38 points the opening two periods and take a commanding lead into the break. He added 12 more points in the third quarter as his team went up by 19 and cruised from there.
MR — Held 25, Cam Brown 11, Lee 8, Snell 6, Ingersoll 5, Cole Brown 4, Little 3, Brennan 3.
LR — Jones 10, Modeste 8, Moore 8, Martin 7, Dix 5, Thompson Jr. 5, Casserly 2, Cooper 2, Davis 2, Olivis 2, Raymond Jr. 2, Shupe 2.
Half: 38-23, MR
Wilde Lake (5-4, 6-8) — 65, Howard (1-8, 2-12) — 59
Make that five straight wins for Wilde Lake, the hottest team in the county over the past few weeks.
Its formula remained mostly the same in a home win over the Lions. The Wildecats leaned on junior guard Trea Keys (15 points) to shoulder the scoring load and received valuable contributions from several other players. On Monday night, guards PJ Joseph and Marc Marshall combined to score 21 points. Senior big man Gerald Van Tassel — fresh off a 15-point, 18-rebound effort against Long Reach four days earlier — chipped in eight points.
WL — Keys 15, Joseph 11, Marshall 10, Van Tassel 8, Greene 7, Williams 5, Zimmerman 4, Hunter 3, Wright 2.
Ho — Harris 13, Blanco 10, Wilson 10, Dawkins 8, Kim 6, Simmons 6, Agbai 2, O'Connor 2, Roberson 2.