Long Reach coach Kelli Cofield isn’t a believer in must-win games in December.
But on the heels of back-to-back losses, she admitted that her team’s match-up against Howard on Monday evening was as about as close as it comes.
Battling back from an early 14-3 hole, Long Reach (2-2, 2-2) grabbed the lead by halftime and held on down the stretch to snap its skid with a 47-43 victory over a previously undefeated Howard (3-1, 4-1) team.
“No banners are given out in December and I’m a big believer that you use this first month to figure out who you are and what you need to work on. But, that said, this was a huge win,” Cofield said. “This was a result that we very much needed and, honestly, it didn’t matter if it was against a great team like Howard. We needed some good energy today, regardless of the opponent, and the girls earned this.”
Haley Thompson led the way with 10 points and nine rebounds, but it was an overall team effort that ultimately led the Lightning into the winner’s circle. Jaelyn Swann (9 points), Lyric Swann (8 points), Rebecca Ford (8 points) and Arianna Briggs-Hall (7 points, 9 rebounds) all delivered key baskets in big moments.
Long Reach’s defense also had a good bit to do with prevailing down the stretch, with the Lightning holding Howard scoreless for the final 4:47 of the fourth quarter to help turn a three-point deficit into the final four-point victory.
Howard coach Scott Robinson said that Long Reach made his team, which was led by Anii Harris (13 points), Camille Malagar (10) and Gabby Scott (10) in the loss, pay for its mistakes.
“Credit to Long Reach, that’s a veteran squad and things that we’ve been able to get away with in our first few wins, we weren’t able to overcome them today,” Robinson said. “We gave up 14 offensive rebounds in the second half and they took advantage of those second chances. They were the physically tougher team tonight and they deserved to win.”
Howard was in control at the onset of the first quarter behind an efficient offense that saw Harris get going with drives to the basket and some timely outside shooting from Scott and Malagar. With 2:44 remaining in the opening period, following a 3-pointer by Scott, the Lions had opened up an 11-point cushion.
But Long Reach buckled down on defense and the shots, that had been missing early on, suddenly started to fall. The Lightning closed the first half on a 23-6 run to take a 26-20 lead into halftime.
“We didn’t put our heads down … our team energy was really high and we were motivating each other to get key stops,” Jaelyn Swann said. “Then we started driving to the basket more and finishing.”
The second half was a back-and-forth affair, with the lead changing hands five times. A made layup by Marisa Sanchez-Henry (6 points) with just under five minutes left put the Lions ahead 43-40.
As it turned it out, however, those were the last points Howard would score. Briggs-Hall and Thompson each made layups to put the Lightning back in front and then Jaelyn Swann made three foul shots in the final minute to put the game out of reach.
Long Reach 47, Howard 43
Ho (3-1, 4-1): Harris 13, Malagar 10, Scott 10, Sanchez-Henry 6, Durkee 2, Fritz 2.
LR (2-2, 2-2): Thompson 10, Jaelyn Swann 9, Lyric Swann 8, Ford 8, Briggs-Hall 7, Streeter 3, Richardson 2.
Half: 26-20 LR.
Reservoir 34, Centennial 33
With the ball and down two points with less than 30 seconds left, Reservoir milked the clock down and with less than a second left junior Tiffany Hooker (16 points) was fouled shooting a 3-point shot. She proceeded to step to the line and knock down all three shots to lift the Gators to the victory.
“We ran a sideline play with a few options for a two and a three, but the play broke down and Tiff had to look to create,” Reservoir coach Deb Taylor said. “She got fouled creating a 3-point shot … and calmly drained all three.”
The final free throws gave the Gators their first lead of the game.
Behind Hooker, Kate Abunassar (8 points) Emily Dorn (6 points, 14 rebounds and 4 steals) and Abby Bailey (4 points, 10 rebounds) had big games for Reservoir.
Jordan Dossett led the way for Centennial in the loss with 9 points.
“I’m happy with where we are, we can play with anyone,” Centennial coach Rob Slopek said. “We just have to clean up a few fundamentals.”
Re (3-1, 4-1): Hooker 16, Abunassar 8, Dorn 6, Bailey 4
C (2-2, 2-2): Dosset 9, Welsh 6, Anderson 5, Molz 3, Urquiaga 3, Reese 3, Pearson 2, Pelligrini 2.
Half: 19-16 C.
Mt. Hebron 67, Atholton 54
The Vikings picked up their second county win of the season, as Tori Valentine led the way with 21 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds. Clarke Oliver also had a big game with 17 points, including two made 3-pointers.
Mt. Hebron raced out of the gates to a 29-11 lead by the end of the first quarter and never looked back.
Alex Hargrett and Zhuri Cannon led Atholton in the loss with 14 points apiece.
MH (2-2, 2-3): Valetine 21, Oliver 17, Chase 8, Madden 7, Dixon 6, Rodriguez 3, Williams 3, Harrington 2.
A (0-4, 1-4): A. Hargrett 14, Cannon 14, Blair 9, Sowah 9, Morton 2, Ruley 2, Brown 2, Perlin 2.
Half: 45-25 MH.
Oakland Mills 49, River Hill 40
Playing their third game in fourth days, the Scorpions held off the Hawks to remain undefeated on the season. Jazmine Washington (14 points), Aislynn Riggs (11) and Marley Grenway (10) all scored in double figures.
Emily Masker scored a game-high 17 points for River Hill in the loss.
OM (4-0, 5-0): Washington 14, Riggs 11, Grenway 10, Scott-Pearson 7, King 7.
RH (2-2, 2-4): Masker 17, Jackson 10, Amith 6, Clark 4, O’Keefe 2, Devine 1.
Half: 17-14 RH.
Glenelg 43, Wilde Lake 30
The Gladiators picked up their first victory of the season, with Abby Gillespie leading the way by scoring a season-high 15 points. Alex Anderson also scored in double figures with 10 points.
Kalani Corkeron scored a game-high 17 points for Wilde Lake in the loss.
G (1-3, 1-4): Gillespie 15, Anderson 10, LePage 4, Hirsch 4, Tolbert 4, Prezelski 2, Castor 2, Salafia 2.
WL (0-4, 0-4): Corkeron 17, Swaby-Rowe 8, Mullican 3, Floyd 2.
Half: 21-11 G.
Marriotts Ridge 47, Liberty 39
Mallory Conroy scored a team-high 16 points, helping lead the Mustangs to their third victory of the season.
MR (3-2): Conroy 16, Lee 8, Noll 6, Miller 4, Morath 4, Kohler 4, Colburn 3, Bryan 2.
L: Thiem 19, Nastos 5, Bull 5, O’Hern 5, Allen 2, Haroldsen 2, Goetz 1.
Half: 27-21 MR.
Reach Brent Kennedy at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports