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New faces take turn in spotlight to push Long Reach girls basketball past Mt. Hebron

There have been plenty of times this winter when Long Reach has asked its senior point guard Lyric Swann to carry the offensive load.

On the road Thursday against Mt. Hebron, her teammates took a turn.

Jaelyn Swann (19 points), Haley Thompson (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Rebecca Ford (12 points, 11 rebounds) all tied or exceeded their season highs for points in a game, leading the way in a 61-43 Lightning victory over the Vikings.

“It’s exciting to see particularly because all these girls work so hard and, as a coach, you want to see that success for each of them. Even better is that Lyric is just as happy to see them succeed,” Long Reach coach Kelli Cofield said. “It’s all part of us working together and running the offense, creating quality shots for one another. Today is just another example of how we seem to be peaking at the right time.”

The win marks the ninth straight county victory for Long Reach (10-2, 10-4) and cements a three-way tie atop the county standings between the Lightning, Oakland Mills (10-2, 14-2) and Howard (10-2, 14-2).

Against Mt. Hebron (6-6, 10-8), the Lightning pulled away late thanks to outscoring the Vikings 17-6 in the fourth quarter — creating the team’s third largest margin of victory this season. And while Lyric Swann (averaging a county-best 21.4 ppg) finished with a season-low seven points, she instead embraced her facilitator role to the tune of a team-high seven assists.

Her sister Jaelyn, who knocked down five 3-pointers and blocked four shots on the evening, said that the supporting cast’s ability to pick up the scoring production when needed is a sign of the team’s growth.

“It’s nice to know that we have players that have each other’s back,” Jaelyn Swann said. “We have a lot of players that are really talented and if someone doesn’t step up, then another person can come in, or two or three players can score.”

On the other side, the Vikings lost their second straight game despite a game-high 23 points from junior Tori Valentine. Mt. Hebron, which trailed by 14 points, 36-22, at the half, did regroup to get within five points midway through the third quarter courtesy of a 13-4 run.

But Long Reach answered before the end of the period behind a couple layups from Ford and then scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter to pull away for good.

“Simply put, we aren’t finishing consistently enough to beat good teams right now. Outside of that stretch in the third quarter, we missed too many layups — shooting 32 percent on shots inside the paint just isn’t going to get it done,” Mt. Hebron coach Tierney Ahearn said. “The frustrating part is that it’s not a lack of effort or even our execution, because we are getting good shots. We simply can’t put the ball in the basket when we get around the rim.”

While the Lightning currently hold the county’s longest league winning streak, the schedule doesn’t get any easier moving forward. Long Reach hosts Centennial on Friday ahead of a road match-up against Howard on Tuesday.

Cofield said she’s encouraging her team to enjoy the ride, but not lose sight of the ultimate goals.

“It’s such a difficult time of the season, because you can’t get too high or two low regardless of what happens because you literally have another game in 24 hours. And, for us, that next game tomorrow is against a Centennial team that beat us earlier this season,” Cofield said. “So while we certainly want to enjoy the successes, we can’t forget to remain focused on the fact that there is still work to be done.”

Long Reach 61, Mt. Hebron 43

LR (10-2, 10-4): J. Swann 19, Thompson 13, Ford 12, L. Swann 7, Richardson 7, Proctor 2, Streeter 1.

MH (6-6, 10-8): Valentine 23, Chase 10, Williams 5, Rodriguez 3, Dixon 2.

Half: 36-22 LR.

Reach Brent Kennedy at bkennedy@baltsun.com or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports

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