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.
Tiffany Hooker scored a career-high 26 points, while Emily Dorn (14 points, 6 rebounds, 5 blocks, 5 steals), Kate Abunassar (11 points) and Abby Bailey (10 points, 13 rebounds) also finished in double figures scoring.
Maddy Davis also had a strong all-around game with four points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
“We shot 36 percent from three and blew the game open with balanced scoring after a tight first quarter,” Reservoir coach Deb Taylor said.
Nyelle Allen (13 points, 7 rebounds), Imani Reid (12 points, 7 rebounds) and Jocelyn Fogle (9 points, 10 rebounds) led the way in the loss for Hammond.
Re (5-1, 8-2): Hooker 26, Dorn 14, Abunassar 11, Bailey 10, Davis 4, Verna 3, Fourney 3, Dudzinski 2.
Ha (3-2, 6-3): Allen 13, Reid 12, Fogle 9, Beahim 5, Liguori 5.
Half: 43-30 Re.
Long Reach 60, River Hill 59 OT
Lyric Swann scored a game-high 30 points, including 15 of her team’s 22 total points in the fourth quarter and overtime, to help the Lightning prevail in a nail-biter against the visiting Hawks.
Rebecca Ford also added a season-high 10 points and five rebounds to the winning effort.
In the loss, River Hill had double-digit scoring efforts from Saniha Jackson (21 points), Anihya Smith (17 points) and Kennedy Clark (15 points).
LR (4-2, 4-3): L. Swann 30, Ford 10, Briggs-Hall 7, J. Swann 7, Richardson 4, Streeter 2.
RH (3-3, 6-5): Jackson 21, Smith 17, Clark 15, Masker 3, Devine 2, O’Keefe 1.
Half: 31-24 LR; Regulation: 52-52.
Marriotts Ridge 48, Centennial 36
The Mustangs snapped a four-game losing skid behind 12 points apiece from Mallory Conroy and Emma Morath.
Marriotts Ridge outscored the Eagles, who were led by 15 points from Brook Anderson, by a 14-7 margin in the fourth quarter to pull away.
MR (3-2, 5-6): Conroy 12, Morath 12, Kohler 8, Lee 4, Noll 4, Crawford 4, Bryan 2, Miller 2.
C (2-4, 4-5): Anderson 15, Reese 6, Pearson 6, Dossett 5, Molz 4.
Half: 22-17 MR.
Mt. Hebron 61, Wilde Lake 29
Tori Valentine put up another strong all-around performance for the Vikings with 22 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals to lead the way in a lopsided win over the Wildecats.
Eve Chase (11 points, 6 rebounds) and Clarke Oliver (8 points, 4 assists) also put together strong efforts for Mt. Hebron.
MH (3-3, 6-5): Valentine 22, Chase 11, Oliver 8, Williams 6, Dixon 5, Reese 4, Rodriguez 3, Harrington 2.
WL (0-6, 1-9): Corkeron 16, Floyd 7, Zimmerman 5, Richards 1.
Atholton 50, Glenelg 34
Zhuri Cannon scored a game-high 20 points and the Raiders picked up their first county victory of the season. Natalie Blair also returned from injury to score 11 points for Atholton.
A (1-5, 3-8): Cannon 20, Blair 11, Sowah 6, Ruley 4, C. Morton 4, A. Hargrett 3, Brown 2.
G (1-5, 2-8): Gillespie 9, LePage 8, Hirsch 7, Salafia 5, Anderson 4, Coburn 1.
Half: 23-18 A.
Reach Brent Kennedy at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports