HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Reservoir boys basketball coach Mike Coughlan has never been one to rely on just a few players for production. He believes everyone he keeps on the varsity roster can contribute, and he gives everyone a chance to showcase their potential throughout the season. Every game is a chance for someone to steal the spotlight.
It just so happened that in Reservoir’s 73-58 playoff win over Mt. Hebron on Wednesday night, three Gators traded the role of star player. When the Gators needed a spark to start each half, Josh Odunowo finished around the rim and ripped down rebounds on both ends of the floor. When turnovers plagued the Gators in the second quarter, Jaylen Manning almost single-handedly kept his team ahead. And when Mt. Hebron cut the deficit to six entering the fourth quarter, it was sophomore sharpshooter Aria Ameli’s time to shine. By games end, the trio combined to score 56 points.
No other Reservoir player scored more than four points Wednesday night, but they all played a part in shutting down a high-powered Mt. Hebron offense and keeping the Gators’ season alive. With the victory, Reservoir (16-8 overall) will host Northeast in the 3A East region title game Friday at 7 p.m. The Gators are looking for their first regional championship since 2013 and their second in program history.
“It was a super team effort,” Gators coach Mike Coughlan said. “The beauty of this team is that if somebody is not [playing well], we’ll have somebody that is. And I told them, ‘You’ve got to go grab it,’ and they grabbed it tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Leading the way for Reservoir was Ameli, who made six 3-pointers for the second straight game and finished with 25 points, 16 of which came in the final eight minutes. Manning added 16 points — including a personal 10-0 scoring run in the second quarter — while Odunowo dominated inside with 15 points and a whopping 20 rebounds (five offensive).
Their excellence carried the Gators to their third win this season over Mt. Hebron, which ended the Gators’ season in blowout fashion a year ago.
“I don’t even know if I could name one player,” Odunowo said when asked about the game’s standouts. “We all picked each other up when someone was having a bad game. The bench, the starters, everyone did what they had to do and played their role to help us win the game.”
Reservoir could not have asked for a much better start, scoring on its first five possessions and causing three turnovers during that stretch to jump ahead, 11-0, midway through the first quarter. Mt. Hebron eventually found its offensive rhythm but could not stop Odunowo from scoring 10 points in the period. He carried the Gators to a 22-10 advantage after the opening frame.
After back-to-back 3-pointers cut the Gators’ lead in half, they relied solely on Manning to regain the double-digit advantage. He converted a layup, then hit a 3-pointer. On the next possession, he drilled another triple to prompt a Vikings timeout. Moments later, Manning scored his ninth and 10th straight points on another layup, putting the Gators ahead, 32-16.
In danger of getting run off the court, Mt. Hebron (13-12) leaned on seniors Odell Dickerson (13 points) and Terrell Coleman (16 points) to spearhead a 12-2 run to end the half. All of the sudden the Vikings were within 34-28.
Reservoir went up by as many as nine points multiple times in the third quarter, but each time Mt. Hebron responded with a bucket to stay within striking distance. None of those shots were bigger than Coleman’s 3-pointer late in the period. It trimmed the deficit to six and gave the Vikings momentum heading into the final frame.
However, the Vikings unraveled in the final eight minutes. Reservoir’s defense was too good, Ameli’s shot too pure. Dickerson finished with 13 points but took plenty of attempts to do so, and Brandon Prox, a fellow 1,000-point scorer for his career, managed just two foul shots and rarely was able to get his three-point shot off.
Meanwhile, Ameli rarely missed his mark, starting the period with a pair of free throws, then a layup and finally a 3-pointer to extend the advantage to 60-43. And before the final buzzer sounded, Ameli went on two hit two more 3-pointers. The Vikings had no answer.
“Nothing but respect for Reservoir,” first-year coach Mt. Hebron coach Jared Ettinger said. “They are really darn good, and whoever sees them going forward has their work cut out for them. Between Josh [Odunowo], No. 4, he’s pretty much unstoppable on the glass and in the paint. And they’ve got shooters all over the floor. They’re a really balanced team.”
Wednesday’s loss cannot discount what Mt. Hebron has been able to accomplish this season. While starting 6-9 overall, the Vikings won seven of their final 10 games, including a first-round playoff win over Long Reach and an upset victory against county champion Atholton. It marked the first time since 2004 that the Vikings had won two playoff games in a season.
“These seniors, this team, sets a great building block for what we’re trying to move towards and build for the future,” Ettinger said, “and I’m really excited about what we have moving forward.”
Reservoir (16-8) — 73, Mt. Hebron (13-12) — 58
Re — Ameli 25, Manning 16, Odunowo 15, Bradford 4, Toler 4, Saunderson 3, Adubi 2, McCallum 2, McKoy 2,
MH — Coleman 16, Dickerson 13, Kinloch 9, Bates 6, Crump 6, Ichrist 4, Prox 2.
Halftime: 34-28, Re