In a tight game with first place on the line Monday night between Long Reach and Reservoir, Howard County’s reigning Player of the Year Lyric Swann took center stage.
The Lightning senior guard delivered 10 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter — accounting for all but two of her team’s points in the period — to help Long Reach (9-2, 9-4) hold off the visiting Gators 58-54.
With the two teams fighting for the top seed in Section I of the upcoming 3A East region playoffs, and Reservoir (9-3, 12-4) having already won the first meeting between the two squads this winter, Swann said the magnitude of the moment wasn’t lost on her.
“The importance of the game really stood out in the second half … because we want that home court advantage like we had last year in the playoffs. That really helped us,” said Swann, who was a key piece on last year’s team that made it to the 3A state championship game. “I just knew, for me, that I had to get mentally strong and tough, and not let injuries or them talking trash bother us.”
While Swann led the way, adding three assists and three steals to her point total, the Lightning had key contributions from a number of different players on the way to the victory. Arianna Briggs-Hall posted a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) and Jaelyn Swann (11 points) also finished in double figures scoring, while Haley Thompson chipped in with 10 rebounds.
Reservoir also had its share of standouts, with Emily Dorn (19 points and 14 rebounds), Kate Abunassar (14 points) and Tiffany Hooker (10 points, 4 assists) all carrying the offensive load at different points. Dorn scored seven of her points in the fourth quarter.
But, in the end, Lyric Swann took over in the game’s biggest moments. After Dorn hit a pair of foul shots with 40 seconds left to make it a two-point game, 56-54, Swann answered with a runner in the lane at the end of the shot clock on the next possession to effectively put the game out of reach.
“It was a great basketball game and it came down to kids making plays on both sides of the ball,” Reservoir coach Deb Taylor said. “You had two kids [Lyric and Emily] who are Player of the Year candidates stepping up and carrying their teams at the end and unfortunately, they just ended up with two more buckets than we did.”
The beginning of the game was eerily similar to the first match-up in early December — which saw Reservoir go ahead by nine in the opening 10 minutes on its way to a 58-51 victory — as the Gators this time jumped out to a 12-2 advantage in the opening three minutes.
Abunassar hit a pair of early threes, while Dorn, Hooker and Bailey all made layups for a Reservoir team that was racing up-and-down the floor.
“Those early buckets, a lot of that was transition. The pace of that first quarter was insanely fast,” Taylor said. “I think we struggled in our half court offense as the game went on to get those same kind of high quality looks that we did at the beginning.”
Unlike that first match-up, Long Reach responded quickly to the slow start. The Lightning trimmed their deficit to six after the first quarter and then used an 11-2 run midway through the second to grab their first lead of the night.
Going into the half, Long Reach led 33-31.
“I actually didn’t call a timeout there early on because I thought we were getting the shots we wanted. So when we did finally get together, I told them to keep doing exactly what we were doing because we were eventually going to start knocking them down,” Long Reach coach Kelli Cofield said. “More than anything the key for us was being patient and not trying to get it all back at once.”
The Lightning never trailed at any point in the second half. But, at the same time, Reservoir was within two possessions for the entirety of the fourth quarter.
Following a steal and layup by Gators’ freshman Karis Turner with just over a minute left, Long Reach led by two at 54-52.
That’s when Jalyn Richardson stepped up to hit her lone basket of the evening, pushing the lead back to four with 52 seconds remaining. Dorn answered with her pair of foul shots the next time down, but then Lyric Swann made sure things never got closer than that.
“She wants the ball in those pressure situations and I think the girls feed off that,” Cofield said in regards to Swann. “It’s not even necessarily making sure she always is the one taking the shot, but just putting the ball in her hands and trusting that she’s going to make the right decisions.”
With a little over two weeks left in the regular season, Long Reach, Oakland Mills (10-2, 14-2) and Howard (9-2, 13-2) are tied in the loss column for first place in the county standings. Reservoir is one game back.
Long Reach 58, Reservoir 54
LR (9-2, 9-4): L. Swann 23, J. Swann 11, Briggs-Hall 10, Ford 6, Streeter 4, Thompson 2, Richardson 2.
Re (9-3, 12-4): Dorn 19, Abunassar 14, Hooker 10, Bailey 6, Turner 5.
Half: 33-31 LR.
Howard 47, Atholton 38
The Lions held off an inspired effort from the Raiders, who were within four points after three quarters. Ultimately Howard was just a little too much behind a balanced offensive effort that was spearheaded by Anii Harris (13 points) and Camille Malagar (10).
Gabby Scott also had a big all-around game for the Lions with six points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.
In the loss, Zhuri Cannon poured in a career-high 25 points for Atholton.
Ho (9-2, 13-2): Harris 13, Malagar 10, Russell 7, Sanchez-Henry 7, Scott 6, Durkee 2, Fritz 2.
A (2-10, 4-13): Cannon 25, Sowah 5, Blair 4, A. Hargrett 2, Brown 1, Munro 1.
Half: 24-21 Ho.
Oakland Mills 50, Glenelg 33
The Scorpions pulled away late in the fourth quarter, closing the game on a 9-0 run to create the final 17-point margin of victory. Marley Grenway scored a team-high 16 points for Oakland Mills, including four made 3-pointers, and she was joined in double figures offensively by Jazmine Washington (10 points) and Kiyah King (10).
Olivia LePage tied a season high with 14 points in the loss for Glenelg.
OM (10-2, 14-2): Grenway 16, Washington 10, King 10, Scott-Pearson 6, Riggs 5, Eldridge 2, McDuffie 1.
G (1-10, 2-14): LePage 14, Hirsch 6, Castor 5, Gillespie 4, Anderson 2, Prezelski 2.
Half: 29-14 OM.
River Hill 64, Hammond 36
The Hawks jumped out to an early lead and steadily built on that advantage the rest of the way. Five players scored nine or more points, including a game-high 15 from Saniha Jackson. Emily Masker (12 points), Aniyah Smith (11), Kennedy Clark (11) and Maggie O’Keefe (career-high 9) all contributed strong games as well.
Nyelle Allen’s 13 points paced Hammond in the loss.
RH (8-4, 11-7): Jackson 15, Masker 12, Smith 11, Clark 11, O’Keefe 9, Scott 2, Heitzmann 2, Thompson 2.
Ha (4-6, 8-7): Allen 13, Brown 8, Fogle 6, Liguori 5, Reid 2, Sannie-Ariyibi 2.
Half: 31-17 RH.
Centennial 56, Mt. Hebron 48
Rasa Welsh continued her recent stretch of strong play, scoring 21 points and grabbing 14 rebounds to help lead the Eagles to their third straight victory. Centennial, which also got 17 points from Brook Anderson (three 3-pointers), avenged a loss earlier this season to the Vikings.
For Mt. Hebron, the loss spoiled a career-high 28 points from Tori Valentine, who also added 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.
C (5-6, 8-7): Welsh 21, Anderson 17, Reese 8, Molz 5, Pearson 3, Dossett 2.
MH (6-5, 10-7): Valentine 28, Rodriguez 7, Dixon 6, Williams 5, Oliver 2.
Half: 30-24 C.
Marriotts Ridge 37, Wilde Lake 18
The Mustangs snapped a four-game losing skid behind a game-high 16 points from Mallory Conroy, who scored all her points over the final three quarters. Overall, eight different Marriotts Ridge players scored at least two points.
MR (4-6, 6-10): Conroy 16, Miller 4, Plano 4, Colburn 4, Kohler 4, Bryan 3, Noll 2, Cooke 2.
WL (0-11, 1-14): Corkeron 9, Swaby-Rowe 6, Richards 2, Mullican 1.
Half: 16-9 MR.
St. Tim’s 35, Glenelg Country 27
ST: Martinez 10, Johnson 10, Chilek 8, Rider 7.
GC (6-5 IAAM B, 11-10): Bender 15, Denny 4, Haynes 3, Chun 3, Pell 2.
Reach Brent Kennedy at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports