Howard junior Anii Harris talks about the Lions’ 59-53 win over South River in the championship game of its own holiday tournament on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018.
Howard's girls basketball team learned a lot about itself Friday night and in the process captured itself a holiday tournament championship.
Up against undefeated South River, the Lions found themselves trailing by as many as 12 points, 24-12, during the second quarter. In the face of adversity, however, the team rallied.
Tournament-host Howard closed the half on a 7-3 run and then carried that right over into the second half, eventually coming all the way back and securing a 59-53 victory thanks to holding the Seahawks without a point over the final four minutes of the contest.
"Our offense was really stagnant in that first half and a lot of credit to South River for some of that because they packed it in and forced us into just too much one-on-one," Howard coach Scott Robinson said. "But we finally started to get the ball moving, got it going side to side and then we were able to attack. I was proud of our girls for the adjustments they made coming out of halftime."
Round-up of the Howard County holiday tournament action on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, including Howard coach Scott Robinson earning the 400th girls basketball coaching win of his career in a victory over Liberty.
Gabby Scott (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals), Marisa Sanchez-Henry (13 points, 4 steals), Lauryn Russell (11 points), Anii Harris (11 points, 6 rebounds) and Camille Malagar (10 points) all scored in double figures for Howard (7-1). And during the team's third-quarter push that turned an eight-point halftime deficit into a three-point lead, all five players scored at least one basket.
"I think first half, we weren't really focused and weren't really locked in. But at halftime we went in the back and talked about it, and the coaches really got us hyped up," Harris said. "We came back in focused and ready to win."
Even with Howard's surge after intermission, South River (6-1) was in it until the final minute. The Seahawks held the lead several times during the fourth quarter, including a 53-51 advantage with 4:01 left in regulation following a jumper by Ashlynn Burrows (game-high 18 points).
But, as it turned out, that basket turned out to be the last of the night for the Seahawks and Howard closed the game on an 8-0 run.
"We were in it there until the very end, but I think the energy they gained at the end of the first half and then right there at the beginning of the second [half], that's what changed the course of the game," South River coach Mike Zivic said. "We had them down, we just couldn't finish them and with a good shooting team like that, you know the shots are eventually going to go in."
Harris ended up making a layup with 3:08 remaining to tie the score at 53 and then Russell — in her first game back from an ankle injury she sustained in early December — buried a 3-pointer with 2:41 left that gave the Lions the lead for good.
In the loss, South River also got standout games from Harley Herndon (14 assists and 11 rebounds), Kathleen Sullivan (16 points) and Megan Curtner (12 points). While falling short stung, Zivic said the growth of his team is undeniable from this time last year, when it lost by a score of 66-36 against Howard.
"We have talented basketball players, there's no doubt about it and I think a big part of tonight was wanting to prove ourselves against Howard, which last year was simply just a much better team than us," Zivic said. "So while, yeah, it hurts to not finish this one off, I think we showed how much we've grown. All the mistakes we made tonight are correctable and that's what we are going to do, get back out in practice and build from the things we learned."
Howard 59, South River 53
Ho (7-1): Scott 14, Sanchez-Henry 13, Russell 11, Harris 11, Malagar 10.
In the consolation game of the Howard Tournament, the Golden Bears hit enough foul shots down the stretch to distance itself from the Lions and earn an important bounce-back victory.
Imani Reid scored a season-high 29 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, and Hammond improved to 5-2 overall this winter.
"I've got to be honest, this was a really big win for us from a morale standpoint. Things were pretty low yesterday after [losing by 27 points to] South River," Hammond coach Ryan Hudy said. "We just hold ourselves to a higher standard than that, so I was incredibly proud of the girls for responding like they did against a Liberty team that played very well tonight. Now we get to go into our week break on an upbeat mood."
Taylor Liguori (24 points, 5 threes) and Nyelle Allen (12 points) also had huge games for a Golden Bears' squad that scored 31 points in the fourth quarter, including 14 made free throws, to erase a five-point deficit.
Ha (5-2): Reid 29, Liguori 24, Allen 12, Fogle 7, Brown 5.
G: Redman 7, Fenwick 6, Polk 3, Penn 3, Talbot 2, Manning 2. Echevarria 1.
Half: 26-12 GC.
River Hill 57, Catholic 23
The Hawks picked up their second win in as many days at the Holly and Hoops tournament at Notre Dame Prep. Saniha Jackson led the way with a season-high 24 points, while Aniyha Smith added 16 points.
RH (5-4): Jackson 24, Smith 16, Masker 6, O'Keefe 4, Clark 3, Devine 2, Heitzmann 2.
C: Liggitt 6, Brandt 5, James 4, Jones 4, Watz 2, Mosca 2.
Western 60, Mt. Hebron 41
In the Holly and Hoops tournament, Western outscored the Vikings 28-8 in the fourth quarter to turn a one-point deficit into a comfortable victory. Vashae Rideout scored seven of her team-high 16 points over those final eight minutes.
Tori Valentine (12 points) and Eve Chase (10 points and 7 rebounds) led the way in the loss for the Vikings.