In a hostile road environment against Reservoir Friday night, Howard’s young girls basketball team grew up in a big way.
The Lions got a double-double from freshman Gabby Scott (15 points, 12 rebounds) and took advantage of an 11-0 run between the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth to create the separation needed to earn a season-opening 59-50 victory over the Gators.
“With no seniors, I came into tonight not really knowing what to expect,” Howard coach Scott Robinson said. “That’s a really good Reservoir team and Deb Taylor has done a great job building that program, so we knew this was going to be a test. But I was really proud of the way we were able to take advantage of our speed and athleticism, sticking to the things that we do best.
“Tonight was big for the girls’ confidence and the nice thing is there are still lots of things we can do to keep getting better.”
Behind Scott, Howard (1-0) also got 13 points from Camille Malagar and 12 from Marisa Sanchez-Henry. Sophomores Lauryn Russell (8 points) and Emily Durkee (6) chipped in with big baskets during the second half as well.
Durkee, who made three of the Lions’ seven successful free throw attempts in the final 90 seconds to protect the lead, said despite being the defending county champions that she and her teammates came in with a chip on their shoulders.
“It was just amazing [tonight] because people doubted us, saying that we are too young and too short. But we did it,” Durkee said.
Reservoir (0-1) was led by 16 points and 15 rebounds from Emily Dorn, along with 15 points from Tiffany Hooker in the loss.
After trailing by just three points at the half, 26-23, the Gators were within two of the Lions following a 3-pointer by Maddy Davis (7 points) with 2:51 left in the third quarter. But it was at that point, sparked by a layup by Malagar, that Howard put together the longest extended run by either team all evening.
Following Anii Harris’ made layup with 6:32 left in regulation, the Lions had opened up their largest lead of the game at 45-32.
Reservoir made several runs down the stretch, but never managed to get any closer than seven points again before the final buzzer sounded.
“From the beginning they were very physical and very aggressive, helping them make up a little bit for their lack of size,” Reservoir coach Taylor said. “Unfortunately, as the game progressed, our number of fouls forced us to play a zone that we didn’t really want to be in. It worked for awhile, but by the end of the third quarter they had seen the zone for a little too long and that’s when they went on their run. Credit to Howard, they made some big shots.”
Foul trouble hindered both squads throughout the contest. Reservoir was called for seven fouls in the opening three minutes and Dorn was saddled with three fouls by early in the second quarter.
Howard had its own struggles, with two starters — Malagar and Harris — fouling out by the fourth quarter. In total, the two squads were whistled for a combined 49 fouls.
That meant free throws played a big role in the final minutes, with the Lions making just enough (eight total in the fourth quarter) to stay ahead.
Robinson also praised his team’s defensive effort as a deciding factor.
“I thought our girls played their butts off on the defensive end. They are tough to defend, because they have shooters and can score inside,” Robinson said. “We were able to get them out of their comfort zone just enough.”
Howard 59, Reservoir 50
Ho (1-0): Scott 15, Malagar 13, Sanchez-Henry 12, Russell 8, Durkee 6, Harris 5.
Re (0-1): Dorn 16, Hooker 15, Davis 7, Verna 6, Bailey 3, Abunassar 2, Turner 1.
Half: 26-23 Ho.
Reach Brent Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports