Howard knew coming into its matchup against Reservoir Wednesday afternoon that it would be going up against a hungry team.
The Gators, which dropped the meeting between the two squads in December and came in having lost to Long Reach two days earlier, had redemption on their minds.
But as the game Wednesday unfolded, the host Lions showcased from the get go that they were more than prepared for the required level of intensity. Answering every Reservoir push with one of their own, Howard pulled away down the stretch for a 64-50 victory behind an offensive effort that saw all five starters score eight or more points.
“I thought we played hard and really battled, and I’m proud of the girls for that. Deb [Taylor] is a great coach over there and she made adjustments throughout the game that we had to counter, so it certainly wasn’t easy,” Howard coach Scott Robinson said. “In the end, I thought our toughness and effort really carried us.”
Anii Harris scored a game-high 17 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, and Howard (10-2, 14-2) put Marisa Sanchez-Henry (15 points), Lauryn Russell (13) and Gabby Scott (11 points, 11 rebounds) in double figures offensively as well. The win marks the fifth straight for the Lions, which keep pace atop the county standings with Oakland Mills (10-2, 14-2) and Long Reach (9-2, 9-4).
On the other side, Reservoir (9-4, 12-5) fell just short for the third time in its last four county contests. Abby Bailey led the way by tying a season high with 15 points and 15 rebounds, while the duo of Emily Dorn (10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Tiffany Hooker (10 points) joined her in double figures scoring.
And through the first three quarters, the Gators stayed within single digits. But, in the end, a Howard 9-0 run between the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second ultimately ended up being the difference in the game. Reservoir closed within two at the half and had itself in a two-possession game late in the third quarter, but never managed to grab a lead after the opening six minutes of the contest.
“Runs are exhausting and over the course of a game they can catch up to you. Tonight it seemed that every time we got close, we missed a box out or closed out incorrectly and it cost us,” Reservoir coach Deb Taylor said. “The hard part, as I just told the girls, is that we are inches away from being as good as Howard. The difference right now, is that Howard is just a little more consistent at doing the little things that decide basketball games.”
Sanchez-Henry was the engine behind the Lions’ early push, scoring nine of her points in the first quarter — including the final four points of the period to create a 16-11 Howard lead. Robinson praised his point guard’s poise on both ends of the floor.
“Marisa Sanchez-Henry did a phenomenal job of controlling the game and her effort from the very beginning definitely set the tone,” he said. “She took care of the ball, got us into the offense and also helped lead our effort on the defensive end.”
Howard built a lead of as many as eight points in the second quarter before Reservoir responded with the final six points of the half to get back within two, 25-23.
However, the Lions sprinted out of the gates after intermission with a 7-0 run to open up the lead once again. From there, Reservoir managed back-to-back baskets just once the remainder of the game.
Camille Malagar (8 points) and Lauryn Russell each hit a pair of second-half threes, while Scott crashed the offensive glass for timely put-backs.
Russell, who caught fire late after some missed shots early, said it was all about staying confident.
“I have confidence in my team to pick me up when I’m missing shots and I also have confidence in the other players to make [their] shots,” Russell said. “We kept our composure and we got the win.”
Howard returns to action on Friday at home against Mt. Hebron, while Reservoir will host Atholton that same evening. Taylor says despite the recent setbacks, she’s confident in the team’s potential to still achieve its ultimate goals moving forward.
“Games like this are always going to make you better if you respond to the adversity,” Taylor said. “We will get our confidence back. We had a lot of goals before the season and winning a county championship was one of them. And, while we need a lot of help now on that front, the 3A region [playoffs] is still very much in front of us. That’s what we will set our sights on now and I still believe that we have a strong enough team to get to Towson.”
Howard 64, Reservoir 50
Ho (10-2, 14-2): Harris 17, Sanchez-Henry 15, Russell 13, Scott 11, Malagar 8.
Re (9-4, 12-5): Bailey 15, Dorn 10, Hooker 10, Turner 7, Abunassar 4, Fourney 2, Moultrie 2.
Half: 25-23 Ho.
Centennial 57, C. Milton Wright 27 (Tuesday)
The Eagles won their fourth straight game, getting two points or more from 10 different players on the way to the lopsided non-county victory. Ashley Molz and Tori Pearson led the charge with 10 points apiece.
C (9-7): Molz 10, Pearson 10, Welsh 9, Anderson 7, Reese 6, Dossett 4, Pellegrini 4, Jackson 3, Sopchick 2, Castle-Smith 2,
CMW (6-7): Hoover 10, Turner 7, Donley 4, Brekner 2, Atkins 2, Frank 2.
Reach Brent Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports