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Dax Matthews knows shooting slumps. He was 2-for-23 in his last two games prior to Monday's contest against Linganore.

But the extraordinary leaper broke his slump Monday with a 6-for-12 night and led the Lions to an 81-67 victory.

The 6-1 Matthews topped the team in points with 18 and rebounds with six.

"I've been expecting him to score for us, but he's been having a rough time until tonight," Howard coach Rich Jenkins said.

Howard (3-1) is off to its fastest start in recent years and has been winning games with its quickness and depth.

Monday the Lions used quickness to get themselves to the foul line 42 times, sinking 29. The foul shooting proved to be a large part of the difference, since Linganore was only 19-for-28.

Linganore dominated the rebounding, 44-31, but the Lions have had problems in that department all season.

"This actually was an improvement for us in rebounding," Jenkins said.

"Tim Day (6-foot-6 center) started his first game for us tonight and gave us a big lift. We were able to go inside more tonight with Tim back."

Two other inside players, 6-4 Ermundo Russell and 6-2 Eric Sommerville, also performed well for Howard, said Jenkins.

Lions shooting star Alex Sutton (15 points) had only an average night offensively, but contributed with his defense and six rebounds.

"Some nights Sutton will carry us offensively, but he didn't get the ball much tonight," Jenkins said. "The word is out on how well he shoots, so he gets heavy coverage and he was sort of a decoy tonight."

Linganore, which was playing its third game in four days, looked sluggish at times, threw the ball away a lot and failed to go inside enough to its big men, 6-4 Mike Webb and 6-3 Scott McIlwee.

Webb scored 14 points and had 12 rebounds. McIlwee had 6 points and 14 rebounds.

"This was our worst effort of the year," Linganore coach Perry Baker said. "We have got to box out better. We were a little weary."

Howard started quickly with a 6-0 lead and led, 15-13, after one quarter.

The Lions employed a half-court offense and played a conservative zone defense.

"I was a little worried because Linganore had scored 97 points against Fallston Friday night," Jenkins said. "I wanted to see how they played."

Linganore put together a seven-point run to start the second quarter and led 20-15.

But Howard followed that with a 10-point run, six of them on free throws, to go up, 25-20. Terry Troy hit four of those free throws.

At halftime it was Howard's lead, 36-29.

Linganore's Ron Hibbard (15 points), a slick outside shooter, had hurt Howard with 12 points, including two three-point shots.

In the second half Howard stepped up its defensive pressure, created turnovers and outscored Linganore, 10-4, at the start to build its biggest lead, 46-33.

But Linganore launched a seven-point run to close the gap again, 46-40, with 2 minutes, 52 seconds left in the quarter.

David Jones' baseline jumper at the buzzer for Howard ended the third quarter with the Lions clinging to a 56-47 lead.

Linganore made another big run to start the fourth quarter, outscoring Howard 9-3 and closing to within three points at 59-56.

But Howard refused to snap. Day scored off a backdoor layup for Howard's first basket of the quarter with four minutes left to play. And Sutton scored shortly thereafter off a rebound.

When Linganore missed three straight layups with 2:52 left to play, its chance for a comeback dwindled and the team's spirit sagged.

Matthews then converted a three-point play, putting the Lions up by 10 at 66-56. Howard's Terry Troy (14 points) applied the finishing touch by scoring inside and upping the lead to 12.

Linganore never recovered and went down to its third defeat in five games.

Neither team shot particularly well from the floor. Howard was 26-for-63 and Linganore was 22-for-57.

Linganore is in the same 3A Class and Region I as Howard, so the two teams could meet again later in the regional playoffs.

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