Howard junior Camille Malagar talks about the Lions' 54-39 victory over previously undefeated Oakland Mills on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2018.
A couple sloppy possessions and a pair of made baskets by visiting Oakland Mills in the opening minute Wednesday evening forced Howard coach Scott Robinson to call timeout and hit the reset button.
“We just weren’t playing with any energy and they were outworking us,” Robinson said. “So we called them over and challenged them to do what we know they are capable of.”
As it turned out, the brief break to regroup was exactly what the Lions needed.
Answering the Scorpions’ initial push with one of their own — scoring 13 unanswered points over a span of just over four minutes in the first quarter — Howard grabbed a lead it never lost the rest of the way en route to a 54-39 victory.
The result creates a three-way tie for first place in the Howard County league standings between Howard (5-1, 9-1), Oakland Mills (5-1, 9-1) and Reservoir (5-1, 8-2).
“The girls responded tremendously and all the credit goes to them. We got the ball moving, got after them on the defensive end, and we got rebounds,” Robinson said. “When we rebound, we are able to get out and run … and in that first quarter, especially, we really did a great job in transition.”
All five Lions’ starters finished with at least eight points. Anii Harris (14 points) and Lauryn Russell (13) led the way offensively, but all-around efforts from Marisa Sanchez-Henry (10 points), Camille Malagar (9 points) and Gabby Scott (8 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks) went a long way as well.
“Our team is very balanced, everybody scores a similar amount every game,” said Malagar, who scored all her points in the second half. “It’s good because that means we swing the ball, we distribute really well. That’s what it means to be a team.”
On the other side of the floor, Oakland Mills suffered its first loss despite strong efforts from Jazmine Washington (15 points) and Kobie Scott-Pearson (11). Oakland Mills coach Walt Hagins said after that opening minute, Howard simply outperformed his Scorpions in almost every aspect of the contest.
“I think the flow of the game favored Howard and they beat us to almost every 50-50 ball,” Hagins said. “They were better prepared and, simply put, they outcoached us today. So I take a big part of this one on my shoulders and we will watch the tape tonight and get right back to work tomorrow in practice.”
Kiyah King (6 points) and Aislynn Riggs (4 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks) converted layups on the opening two Oakland Mills possessions to create the quick 4-0 advantage. But Howard then answered with its 13-0 run that started with a layup from Scott and culminated with a banked in 3-pointer from Sanchez-Henry.
The lead was still nine points at the end of the first quarter, 16-7, and was up to 13 points, 23-10, entering halftime.
Oakland Mills did show some life in the second half and managed to trim its deficit to as few as seven points, 40-33, following a couple made free throws by Washington early in the fourth quarter.
But Howard answered with a timely 3-pointer from Russell and then kept the Scorpions an arms length away down the stretch thanks to its trademark effort on the defensive end. Scott particularly praised the efforts of Sanchez-Henry on Oakland Mills’ leading scorer Marley Grenway, holding her to just two points.
Howard returns to action Friday on the road against River Hill, while Oakland Mills will host Atholton that same evening.
Howard 54, Oakland Mills 39
Ho (5-1, 9-1): Harris 14, Russell 13, Sanchez-Henry 10, Malagar 9, Scott 8.
OM (5-1, 9-1): Washington 15, Scott-Pearson 11, King 6, Riggs 4, Grenway 2, McDuffie 1.
Half: 23-10 Ho.
Reservoir 73, Hammond 44
Trailing by a point at the end of the first quarter, the Gators responded by outscoring the Golden Bears 22-8 in the second quarter to take a lead it never let go of down the stretch.