River Hill senior Sydney Poindexter talks about her team knocking Mt. Hebron out of the first round of playoffs on Friday, February 26th. (Monica D'Ippolito and Ulysses Munoz / BSMG)
River Hill senior Sydney Poindexter saw her team get all the way to the state championship game in her first year on varsity, but since then the Hawks have struggled advancing out of the first round of the MPSSAA playoffs. However on Friday, Poindexter led fifth-seeded River Hill through a dominating fourth quarter and helped the Hawks beat fourth-seeded Mt. Hebron – pushing her team through to the sectional semifinals.
"It's my last year being here, and since I don't think my sophomore year, we haven't gotten past the first round of playoffs, so we really – I couldn't think of any other option besides winning today," Poindexter said after the 46-36 victory. "We're just scrappy, we're not going to give up. Going into this game we knew that we beat them twice, but we weren't going to underestimate them. They're a scrappy team too, but we wanted it more."
Both teams struggled finding its flow offensively in the first eight minutes, as the Hawks and Vikings turned the ball over on numerous occasions while running their half court offense. There was only four made shots from the field combined in the first quarter, but the Vikings Shane Devine managed to drain a three late in the period that put Mt. Hebron ahead 7-6.
After the game was knotted up twice early in the second quarter, Mt. Hebron went on a 9-0 run midway through the period that saw its largest lead of the game, 18-11 with just about two and half minutes remaining in the half. But after a Sarah Dawit bucket ended the surge, the Hawks took back momentum and outscored the Vikings 6-1 in the final two minutes of the half and cut their deficit 19-17 at the break.
Poindexter opened up the second half with six-straight points, putting River Hill back on top by four early in the third. Again, Mt. Hebron made a run and touted a 27-23 advantage with just more than two minutes left in the period. But the Hawks never went away, chipping at the lead and getting within one entering the last eight minutes.
"We weren't scoring –we didn't score," said Vikings coach Anthony Bell. "We were just throwing bad passes. They weren't communicating on the court. We wanted someone else in the middle, but then they were out on the wing… just a lot of miscommunication out here. I've been chalking it up to youth for a year, but yeah, we're a young team but that's not an excuse anymore. We're a veteran team I feel like now."
Mt. Hebron, down by four points, was forced to foul in the last minute and 15 seconds, hoping to stop the clock and have the Hawks miss some free throws. But River Hill was clutch. Dawit and senior guard Jess Hopkins combined for a productive 8-of-12 in the last seconds to ice it. Overall, the Hawks hit 20-for-32 from the charity stripe – good for 63 percent.
"It was critical because we were struggling," said River Hill coach Teresa Waters of winning the fourth quarter. "And Jess to me, showed up here. She did a lot with things and just having her presence on the court has helped us. Although, she got plagued with fouls early and so did Tiffany (Howell)."
Poindexter, despite getting double-teamed for most of the game, led the Hawks with 14 points, with most of which coming from the foul line. She finished 9-of-15 of her free throws in the contest.
"With two people on me, I couldn't really have my regular game, just you know, getting up and get shots," Poindexter said. "I had to find a way to score somehow and just try to draw fouls and I knew I had to get my free throws in order to get any points."
Hopkins followed with 12 points, as she finished 5-of-9 from the foul line, with Dawit, Owens and Howell contributing with eight and four points, respectively, while Mona King and Marissa Mazella rounded out the scoring, adding two points each.
"Sydney did (play well), and considering the fact that she had two people guarding her most of the time, she played within herself. She maintained composure," Waters said. "I know Tiffany got a little rattled, but we dealt with a little adversity but we were able to get through it. Everybody was a role player for the most part. We even had a little JV player that got in and played based on the need of the team."
Junior guard Shane Devine led Mt. Hebron with a game-high 20 points, netting a perfect 5-for-5 from the foul line.
"I just told Shane, I pulled her aside and said, I know I got on you a lot and I was real hard on you, but coming into the season I didn't know who was going to be our go-to take over player and she just took that role and ran with it," Bell said. "She was consistent all season and I'm super proud of her because that wasn't her last year. She improved so much from last year, and I told her to be a leader next year and lead us to bigger things."
The Vikings finish out the year sixth in the league and tout an 11-11 overall record. They will bring back nearly their entire squad next season with the exception of seniors Peyton LeConte and Kaylee Toth.
"I give everything to River Hill, they played hard, they hustled. I told my girls they were going to come at us the whole game and they weren't going to back down and they didn't. They gave it everything they had," Bell said. "But you know it was a fun season, very patient season for me as a coach. Learned a lot, love my team, wouldn't want any other team in the world. I'm really excited about next year. Losing a great leader in Peyton, Kaylee Toth was a great captain. She started stepping up a lot toward the end of the season, just her leadership throughout the season. We'll be back next year and excited to tackle this very deep and talented county."
As for the Hawks, they move on to face top-seeded Glenelg on Tuesday. The Gladiators won both matchups during the regular season.
"I'm honestly feeling good about it," Poindexter said. "The first game they kind of blew us out, but the second game, it really showed how much we've grown as a team. We were in it. We only lost by four points, I think this time we're going to come out on top."
Wilde Lake was only one of two teams that touted a win on Long Reach's home floor during the regular season. But in the first round of the playoffs Friday, the second-seeded Lightning invoked some revenge on the seventh-seeded Wildecats, defeating them handily, 70-34.
"We just wanted to come out and play better, because last time we were heart broken how we lost to them," said Long Reach's Kiana Williams after her team put up a season-high 70 points. "We shouldn't have lost to them like that. But this time we knew we couldn't let them get open shots and stuff. We needed to close out and contest and get rebounds. I think we did better at that this time."
Wilde Lake seemed confident at the start, earning the first points of the game. It went back-and-forth throughout the first eight minutes, seeing six different lead changes before the first quarter buzzer sounded.
"We knew there was a couple of things we weren't doing in the first half to keep it that close," said Long Reach coach Kelli Cofield. "We weren't helping real well – we weren't helping the helper. So at halftime we wanted to make sure that we cleaned up on those little things. We boxed out a little bit better, we maintained our person, and do what we normally do. We like to push the ball; we like to defend the ball. I thought in the second half we did a better job of that."
The Wildecats defended well in the half court, preventing any easy buckets around the rim, as the Lightning had a hard time finishing inside early. But Long Reach played its usual smothering defense. It caused 28 Wildecat turnovers throughout the game and as a team Long Reach amassed 20 steals in the outing, which allowed them to get out in transition where they thrive.
"That's what we've been working on, a lot of pressure layups," Cofield said. "On varsity level you're not going to get too many wide-open layups, so we wanted to make sure we just fine-tune and getting buckets with somebody on or near us. I think they did a better job. Their focus was there to get those buckets in traffic,"
After a modest 18-14 advantage heading into the second, the Lightning piled onto the lead in the second quarter, going up 27-19 at the break.
"It was a good win, you know they were one of the two teams that came in here and beat us, so we definitely wanted to come out and protect our home court, play a lot better we did the last time," Cofield said. "So I'm happy with our effort, our girls were really excited. We had a good week of practice. They were really ready to come in and play and I'm happy, I'm happy with how we came out. The girl's were really, really excited about this game."
Led by Kiana Williams, Long Reach earn a 47-23 win Friday over River Hill, earning its second win of the week after defeating Glenelg on Monday and coming off a tough loss against Atholton Wednesday night.
The Wildecats netted only two baskets in the third quarter, while the Lightning's offense thrived, accumulating 18 points in the period and 43 in the final 16 minutes.
"I think it did, but I think it also made us a little more nervous," said Wilde Lake coach Karen Haver of winning the first meeting against Long Reach. "Knowing that we were missing two starters, injured that we couldn't put in the game that played in the first game and they had three extra players they didn't have in the beginning too, so we knew we were coming into a challenge and it was going to be tough."
Williams was not only the catalyst offensively, but caused numerous turnovers with her aggressive play on the defensive side of the ball. She collected seven steals in the game, while totaling 13 deflections – a career high.
"I think in the beginning we weren't really playing as a team, especially for me, I wasn't taking part in that. We weren't running the offense, but after we huddled up, we came together and got the win," Williams said. "I feel like when I'm playing defense and really pressuring the ball I'm going to get the steal, but if I'm laying back and stuff, I don't know what's going to happen. It can go 50-50."
Williams lit up the stat sheet, finishing with a team-high 23 points, shooting 7-of-19 from the field (37 percent), while adding a career high 12 rebounds and eight assists to go along with her seven steals. But the Lightning got good production from virtually everyone on their roster. Freshmen Lyric Swann and Arianna Briggs-Hall each tallied 12 points – a career high for Briggs-Hall, while freshman Haley Thompson, junior Devon Williams and senior Ifeoma Ezimako followed with six, five and six points, respectively.
"You know what, the sky's the limit," Cofield said. "This is a young bunch. The only people that's been in the playoffs has been Emily (Joyce), Ifeoma and Devon, so everyone else is brand new to this. They had a little nerves and I think that played a part in that first half. They were real nervous, real anxious, but you know what, from what I heard Centennial had a great game, so we'll see them on Tuesday. They're a good team, so we got to get ready for them tomorrow and Monday."
Wilde Lake was led by Ka'Mari Robinson and Kiarra Lewis-Turnbo who scored a team-high nine points apiece, while Rachel Lazris and Mikayla Lee followed with eight and six points, respectively. Lewis-Turnbo played exceptionally well on the glass, getting numerous second and third chance opportunities.
"Coming off the bench with a back injury – she did very well. It comes and goes. She got a hip issue and a back issue, so it all depends where we're at with the pain. If we can keep her pain free, she's ready to go," Haver said of Lewis-Turnbo. "I think the biggest thing, when they stick together as a team – things are going to happen, but they bounced back very well. We started showing great progress. It just wasn't enough a few times. Big thing I hope they can take from it, they got a good start and recharge, so we can start playing some spring-ball, summer-ball and fall-ball and we'll be ready to go next winter."
Long Reach continues its playoff push Tuesday, when it hosts third-seeded Centennial. The Lightning came up with both wins when the two faced off during the year, but the most recent matchup on Feb. 10 was only a two-point decision.
"I think we have Centennial, so I'm pretty excited for that. This is the third time seeing them and I hope we can get the win," Williams added. "It's always a good matchup. It always comes down to the last shot. They have a good center – Kelly Simmons – I used to play AAU with her. She gets the boards and she's amazing down in the post. Also they have a point guard, I think her name is Ally (Driscoll), she can create a lot for Kelly to get open, so I think it's going to be a good matchup."
Long Reach 70, Wilde Lake 34 (Friday, Feb. 26)
LR (14-5, 16-5): Williams 23, L. Swann 12, Briggs-Hall 12, D. Williams 7, Ezimako 6, Thompson 6, Joyce 4, Rivera 2.
The third-seeded Eagles collected their third win over the sixth-seeded Gators and second within the week, knocking Reservoir out of playoff contention Friday.
"Although we didn't play tonight we the intensity and execution we have shown all season, I'm proud of these girls and how much they have grown," said Reservoir coach Deb Taylor. "In my first year they have earned respect for Reservoir and put the league on notice that we are a competitive opponent."
Sophomore forward Kelly Simmons put up a game-high 19 points for Centennial, while defensively she held Reservoir's young bigs – sophomore Nia Powell and freshman Emily Dorn – to a combined 17 points in the game.
Seniors Ally Driscoll and Kewa Gray continued their impressive play for the Eagles, following up with 11 points apiece in the win. Jasmine McCree and Ashley Molz rounded out Centennial's offense, chipping in with six and two points, respectively.
Powell finished the game with a team-high 10 points, while also adding seven rebounds, two assists and two steals, with Dorn totaling seven points, six rebounds and two assists. Senior captain Mary Dudzinski ended her varsity career for the Gators with five points.
"We are young and will grow and build from this year and I'm excited to see where we go," Taylor added. "It will be difficult to replace Mary's leadership and contributions, but the future is bright."
Centennial will move on to face off against two-seed Long Reach in the sectional semifinals Tuesday.
Re (7-12, 9-14): Powell 10, Dorn 7, Dudzinski 5, Wilson 4, Verna 3, Fourney 3, Bartley 3.
Half: 24-15 C.
Winters Mill 53, Marriotts Ridge 49 OT (Friday, Feb. 26)
In a season where the Mustangs saw 10 different games come down to eight-points or less, their season ended with a four-point loss in overtime to Winters Mill in the opening round of the MPSSAA playoffs Friday.
"We've had a lot of exciting games this year and through those games I think we've started to show the county who we are," said Marriotts Ridge coach Caitlin Bay. "I am excited to continue next season right where we left off."
The sixth-seeded Mustangs traveled to the third-seeded Falcons and got a terrific game from junior guard Caroline Blalock who put up a season-high 21 points, while also adding four steals to her stat sheet. Junior Sarah Blalock and Senior Makenzie Hockensmith followed offensively, recording eight points apiece. Sarah Blalock also added five assists, while Hockensmith pulled down 12 boards. Sophomore Hope Morath and freshman Mallory Conroy chipped in with six and five points, respectively.
Marriotts Ridge ends the year 10th in league standings, and owns a 5-16 overall mark. It returns the bulk of its roster, but graduates Hockensmith, Carly Miller and Jordan Stepke.
"These girls play with tremendous amount of heart," added Bay. "Which makes them such a fun team to coach."
MR (5-14, 5-16): C. Blalock 21, S. Blalock 8, Hockensmith 8, Morath 6, Conroy 5.
Howard 64, Springbrook 24 (Friday, Feb. 26)
The second-seeded Lions cruised to a first-round playoff victory Friday, defeating the seventh-seeded Blue Devils by a 40-point margin.
Howard jumped out to a 30-10 halftime lead, as it held Springbrook to just four made shots from the field in the first 16 minutes and eight made from the floor throughout the game.
The Lions also held the Blue Devils without a scorer in double figures, while putting three of their players above the 10-point mark in Emileigh Scott (14), Sam Lewis (14) and Courtney Furr (12). Nine different players contributed offensively for Howard, including freshman Teylah Saunders and sophomore Taylor Addison, who chipped in with eight points apiece.
The large lead allowed the Lions to broaden their rotation and rest a few starters for a tough matchup against third-seeded Point Branch Tuesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Howard High School.
Ho (17-2, 21-2): Scott 14, Lewis 14, Furr 12, Saunders 8, Addison 8, Sanchez-Henry 3, Kinsey 2, Eich 2, Sarah Sagi 1. Sb: Pitter 8, Brown 7, Clermont 5, Mounsie 2, Thomas 2. Half: 30-10 Ho.
The fourth-seeded Golden Bears cruised to a 68-point rout of the fifth-seeded Clippers Friday, scoring a season-high and ended a five-game losing streak with authority in the process. Hammond moves onto the sectional semifinal where it will travel to top-seeded Stephen Decatur on March. 1.