For the first four minutes of its game against Howard Wednesday evening, Long Reach looked every bit like a team that hadn’t played a basketball game in 13 days.
Settling for quick jump shots and failing to stop penetration defensively, the Lightning found themselves in an early 10-2 hole.
“Those first few minutes, I think we forgot who we were playing,” Long Reach coach Kelli Cofield said. “Some of those shots, those empty possessions … we did not look like ourselves out there and you do that against a team like Howard and you are going to pay for it. But the sign of a good team is how you respond.
“Tonight I thought we responded extremely well.”
Shaking off the rust, Long Reach played like a team on a mission the rest of the way. The Lightning closed the first quarter on a 17-7 run, coming all the way back to take the lead and grab momentum they never lost en route to a 70-51 victory on the road.
Lyric Swann (19 points), Arianna Briggs-Hall (15 points, 9 rebounds), Kiana Williams (12 points, 11 assists) and Haley Thompson (11 points) all stood out while helping Long Reach improve to 4-0 in county play and 5-0 overall.
“I think we kind of showed everyone else tonight what we’ve kind of known ourselves, that this is a really special group that we have this year,” Cofield said. “We had played only four games before today, while most other teams had played seven or eight, so I think there were still some question marks in people’s minds. But I think this solidifies everything and shows what we are capable of.”
Deonna Jones (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Taylor Addison (11 points, 16 rebounds) paced Howard (3-1, 8-1), which lost for the first time this winter. The Lions had won each of their first eight games by 20 or more points.
Lions’ coach Scott Robinson said he knew going into Wednesday’s match-up, though, that his group was going up against a team unlike any other they had seen thus far. And, afterward, he praised just how much better Long Reach has gotten since this time last year.
“We played them Jan. 4 last year and I remember in that game, almost every player for them had at least one weakness that we were able to exploit. And what those girls have done through the spring, summer and fall is take those flaws and turn them into strengths,” Robinson said. “They deserve so much credit for how much each of them has improved. They are just such a dynamic team and as they showed tonight, just extremely difficult to defend.”
In the early stages, Howard looked like the one that might run away with things. The Lions scored the first five points of the game and, following a lay-up by Madison Burris with 4:11 left in the opening quarter, had managed to open up an eight-point advantage.
The lead was still seven points, 14-7, with just over two minutes left in the first quarter, but that’s when the Lightning flipped the switch.
Kiana Williams made a driving lay-up and Swann made a 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions, kick starting a push that allowed the team to grab a 19-17 lead by the end of the period.
“Because we were off for two weeks, we were a little rusty in the beginning. But after we were down by that much, we had to regroup, come to what we are strong with and ignore the crowd noise,” Swann said. “We just had to play our basketball.”
After a back-and-forth second quarter, Long Reach maintained a three-point advantage going into the half. Then in the third quarter, the Lightning rode the strong play of Briggs-Hall to an eight-point lead, 49-41, heading into the final eight minutes.
If not for Jones catching fire in that third period, scoring 11 of her points in that quarter alone, Howard may have been in an even deeper hole.
“I was really proud of how Deonna and Taylor competed, keeping us in the game with their effort inside,” Robinson said.
But sensing that it had Howard on the ropes, Long Reach made sure to deliver the knock out blow. Courtesy of an 11-0 run in the first two minutes of the final quarter, the Lightning effectively ended any hopes of a Howard comeback.
“We focused a lot on playing until there were doubles zeros on that clock. Especially when you are playing a great team like Howard, you can’t let up for one second,” Cofield said. “We had them down and we wanted to keep our foot on their neck. We kept pushing the ball, kept attacking and stayed aggressive.”
Robinson said that while disappointed in the loss, he’s looking forward to seeing how his team responds moving forward.
“You never want to lose, but what I told the girls is that it’s over and now we have to move on to go up against a very good Centennial team on Friday,” Robinson said. “Last year’s team bounced back after we lost to [Long Reach] toward the end of the season, so I’m excited to see how this year’s team bounces back.”
Long Reach 70, Howard 51
LR (4-0, 5-0): L. Swann 19, Briggs-Hall 15, Williams 12, Thompson 11, J. Swann 8, Streeter 5.
Ho (3-1, 8-1): Jones 23, Addison 11, Furr 7, Sanchez-Henry 5, Burris 5.
Half: 31-28 LR.
Oakland Mills 46, River Hill 35
The Scorpions got double-digit scoring efforts from Marley Grenway (16 points) and Jazmine Washington (11) on the way to earning an 11-point win over the Hawks that keeps them undefeated in county play this winter.
Aislynn Riggs added eight points, nine rebounds and 11 blocked shots in the victory for Oakland Mills.
OM (4-0, 7-2): Grenway 16, Washington 11, Riggs 8, Eldridge 6, T. McDuffie 4, Lightfoot 1.
RH (2-2, 8-2): S. Jackson 15, King 11, Clark 5, E. Jackson 2, Masker 2.
Half: 23-14 OM.
Reservoir 47, Centennial 39
The Gators earned their first county win of the season and did it with an impressive balanced effort.
Tiffany Hoover led the way with 12 points, 5 assists and three rebounds, but there wre a total of six players on the team with at least four points.
“It was a great team effort, lots of positive growth that we have been teaching and looking for all season,” coach Deb Taylor said.
Other big games for Reservoir came from Nia Powell (9 points, 8 rebounds), Emily Dorn (8 points, 6 rebounds), Kate Abunassar (9 points, 4-4 from foul line in last three minutes), Hydeinah Moore (5 points, 8 rebounds) and Nat Verna (4 points, 5 assists).
Re (1-3, 2-6): Hoover 12, Powell 9, Abunassar 9, Dorn 8, Moore 5, Verna 4.
C (2-2, 5-4): Welsh 9, Hamshey 7, Worthy 7, Anderson 6, Molz 6, Dossett 4.
Hammond 47, Marriotts Ridge 44
Imani Reid scored 19 points and added 10 rebounds to pace the Golden Bears on the way to the team’s first county win of the winter. Ashlyn McInerney chipped in with 12 points as well for Hammond, which outscored the Mustangs 35-20 in the second half.
Ha (1-3, 3-3): Reid 19, McInerney 12, Allen 6, Burns 6, Lindsey 4.
MR (2-2, 4-4): Conroy 11, H. Morath 9, Noll 8, E. Morath 6, Levey 2, Colburn 2, Kohler 2, Cooke 2, Crosby 2.
Half: 24-12 MR.
Mt. Hebron 56, Atholton 49
Satori Valentine (19 points), Eve Chase (14) and Meredith Williams (14) all scored in double figures as the Vikings won their first county game and fourth straight contest overall.
MH (1-3, 5-4): Valentine 19, Chase 14, Williams 14, Rodriguez 5, Oliver 4.
A (1-3, 3-5): Sowah 13, Beckwith 12, Cannon 10, Hargrett 5, Bathras 5, Blair 2, Ruley 2.
Half: 35-25 MH.
Glenelg 67, Wilde Lake 35
Jess Foster continued her hot start to the season, scoring a game-high 30 points (6 threes) in a little more than a half of action, to help lead the Gladiators to their fifth straight win overall. Kellie Johnson added 13 points, 8 rebounds and five steals, while Katie Laport chipped in with 10 points. Gladiators coach Chris Beil also praised the defensive effort of Cayla Coburn.
In the loss, Kalani Corkeron scored a team-high 21 points for the Wildecats.
G (3-1, 7-1): Foster 30, Johnson 13, Laport 10, Howze 4, Prezelski 3, Hirsch 3, Gillespie 2, Coburn 2.
WL (0-3, 1-7): Corkeron 21, Perry 12, Cariati 2.
Half: 47-20 G.
Reach Brent Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports