Reservoir junior Tiffany Hooker talks about the Gators’ 71-68 overtime victory over Catonsville in the championship game of the Catonsville Holiday Tournament on Saturday, Dec. 22.
In the championship game of the Catonsville Holiday Tournament against the host Comets on Saturday afternoon, the duo of Tiffany Hooker and Kate Abunassar finished off what senior Emily Dorn started.
Hooker hit a 3-pointer as time expired in the fourth quarter to force overtime and then Abunassar hit a corner three for the deciding points late in the extra period, helping the Gators prevail 71-68 in a game that saw Dorn score a career-high 34 points and eclipse the 1,000-point plateau for her career.
On the heels of losing a tight contest earlier in the week against South River and then seeing Dorn foul out midway through the fourth quarter against Catonsville (3-3), Reservoir (6-2) coach Deb Taylor said her team’s composure and contributions from its supporting cast were tremendous with the game on the line.
“Early on, Em was playing absolutely terrific but we were sitting there kind of waiting for someone else to step up. And some of our usual scorers just seemed a little off,” Taylor said. “But then [Emily] goes out and Tiff took over offensively, while all our role players found ways to each make contributions. It took a complete team effort at the end there to pull this thing out and that’s exactly what we got.”
Hooker finished with 19 points, including 11 of the Gators’ final 14 points after Dorn was disqualified for picking up her fifth foul with 3:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Those other three points came courtesy of the game-winning shot from Abunassar (8 points).
On the deciding play, Hooker saved a ball on the end line to Jenni Fourney who then found Abunassar alone in the right corner with 30 seconds remaining for her second made basket from beyond the arc in the game.
“I think Catonsville was focused on not [letting me get] the shot, so we just gave it to Kate and Kate’s a knock-down shooter so that three went in,” Hooker said.
Catonsville had two chances to tie things again at the end of overtime, but failed to convert on either attempt and the Gators’ celebrated the tournament title. In the loss, Princess Lawson led the Comets with 21 points off the bench and the guard tandem of Asia Fergeson (16 points) and Gabby Douglas (12) also finished in double figures offensively.
“I think coach Mike [Mohler] and I would agree that today was the best that we’ve seen our girls play all year. Obviously, the outcome didn’t go our way, but the effort was there,” said Catonsville assistant coach Taylor Barton. “For our girls, this should hopefully serve as a motivational tool to show us how we are capable of playing and if we play like that moving forward then the results are going to come.”
The early stages belonged to Dorn, who came in just four points shy of 1,000 and surpassed the milestone with a short jumper just three minutes after the opening tip. The Gators called timeout and took turns hugging and congratulating their senior captain, who was presented with the game ball and posed for a photo with Taylor.
When play resumed, she didn’t slow down on the way to a 19-point first half that helped her team take a 28-23 lead into intermission. She continued the onslaught after the break as well, registering her 34th point of the night with 3:40 left in regulation courtesy of a driving layup to put Reservoir ahead by two, 57-55.
“Funny enough, I actually texted my assistant coach and told him how amazing it would be if on the day she goes for 1,000 that she also somehow also went for her first 30-point game,” Taylor said. “She was just so locked in today.”
But just 30 seconds after giving her team the lead, Dorn was whistled for an offensive foul that sent her to the bench. Sophomore forward Abby Bailey (5 points) picked up her fifth foul shortly after as well and suddenly the momentum seemed to be shifting.
Catonsville took advantage, with Lawson converting a couple layups inside to go along with Fergeson and Saunders each hitting a pair of foul shots to stake the Comets to a three-point lead with just five seconds remaining.
But with the game on the line, Taylor drew up a play that got the ball into the hands of Hooker on the right wing and she proceeded to hit a 3-pointer to extend the game.
“Our coach is always like ‘We are still in this, we’re still in this’ even if its five seconds left on the clock. So I usually know that’s when it’s about my time to come in and make that shot,” said Hooker, who made three free throws with less than a second left to defeat Centennial by one earlier this winter. “My head is usually calm, I’m not really nervous or anything.”
Each team had the lead in overtime before the game became deadlocked at 68 with a minute left. That’s when Abunassar stepped up and delivered the clinching basket.
Reservoir, which had Dorn and Hooker named to the all-tournament team, had defeated Severn on Friday to advance to the title game. Catonsville had defeated Bryn Mawr in its opening-day game.
The Gators got huge games from Emily Dorn (25 points, 15 rebounds, 6 steals and 3 assists) and Tiffany Hooker (18 points, 6 assists and 4 steals) to advance to the championship game.
Abby Bailey added a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in a game that Reservoir led by double digits, 22-12, by the end of the opening quarter. Then, in the second half, the Gators held Severn to just seven points.