If there were any lingering doubts surrounding Reservoir’s turnaround after starting the winter 1-6, the Gators officially put them to rest on Monday night against Glenelg.
The Gators used a balanced attack, featuring six players scoring four or more points, to withstand a 29-point effort from the Gladiators’ Jess Foster on the way to gutsy 59-57 victory. The win, which moves Reservoir (6-3, 7-6) above .500 for the first time this winter, is the sixth straight victory for the team.
“From where we were a month to where we are now, it’s unbelievable and I think the biggest thing is that these girls are playing like they believe. And I think this one is going to be the one that kind of confirms that belief that we can win a big game,” Reservoir coach Deb Taylor said. “We came into today knowing that this was going to be the real test … and I thought our kids really hung in there to make this happen. Every kid that stepped on the floor, they did their part.”
Emily Dorn ended up leading the way with 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Gators, but Hydeniah Moore (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Kate Abunassar (11 points, 5 rebounds) came through with clutch plays as well all evening.
Even Natalie Verna (5 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds), who hadn’t hit a 3-pointer all season, stepped up in crunch time to hit a clutch shot from beyond the arc with less than two minutes left in regulation. Dorn said that with Glenelg sitting back in a zone to try and limit Reservoir’s post players, the door was open for the guards to shine.
“Since they played us in a zone, and we’re not really used to that because they doubled down on Nia [Powell] who’s a great post … we knew that we would have the shots out wide,” Dorn said. “Kate stepped up and she had a lot of confidence today. Natalie had a lot of confidence, and I [even] had a few threes. It was just a great team effort.”
While Reservoir ultimately prevailed thanks to free throws from both Dorn and Moore in the final 11 seconds — serving as the deciding points in the contest — Glenelg (6-3, 11-3) was actually the one playing with the lead for the majority of the first three quarters.
Foster, who hit seven threes on the evening, began heating up in the final minutes of the first quarter to help the Gladiators to a 16-12 advantage through the opening period. She kept things going in the second quarter and Glenelg took a 27-25 lead into halftime.
Then, immediately out of intermission, the Gladiators put together an 8-0 run to take their largest lead of the game, 35-25.
But, as was the case all game, Reservoir pulled together and found an answer. Tiffany Hooker (7 points) hit a big three and then Verna made a transition lay up to spark a run that helped the Gators get all the way back within three points, 42-39, by the end of the third quarter.
“Natalie Verna is the most unsung hero, in my opinion, in the entire league. She didn’t come out once tonight and she’s the one that makes our engine go,” Taylor said. “Most of the time she doesn’t get in the box score, instead being perfectly happy to set everyone else up. But for her to hit those big shots tonight, in really big moments, I’m just so happy for her.”
The fourth quarter turned into a back-and-forth affair, featuring four lead changes and a pair of ties in the last three minutes. The last of those ties came with just over a minute left on the clock following a lay up by Foster.
Each team missed a scoring opportunity before Dorn made something happen with a drive to the rim with 11 seconds to go that drew a foul. She made the first foul shot and then when she missed the second, Moore swooped in to grab the rebound and draw another foul.
Moore also made one of two from the line to make it a two-point game with 10 seconds remaining.
After Glenelg called timeout, the Gladiators got the ball into the hands of Foster for one final shot. Her attempt from just inside the 3-point line, however, was blocked by Dorn and Reservoir corralled the rebound to seal the victory.
“My hats off to Reservoir and while this was a really tough one, I really believe that when you lose, you learn,” said Glenelg coach Chris Beil, whose team lost for the second time in three games by two points. “This was a playoff atmosphere and we’re a young team, so the good thing is our girls are starting to get a feel for close games and what it takes to play with the game on the line. We just need to find a way to come out on top one of these times.”
Reservoir ended up out-rebounding Glenelg 44-31 overall, including 23-9 on the offensive end.
Both teams, along with the rest of the county are now off until Friday for exams week. The Gators will return to action on the road against Oakland Mills, while the Gladiators will host first-place Long Reach.
Reservoir 59, Glenelg 57
Re (6-3, 7-6): Dorn 21, Abunassar 11, Moore 11, Hooker 7, Verna 5, Powell 4.
G (6-3, 11-3): Foster 29, Johnson 8, Anderson 6, LePage 6, Prezelski 4, Gillespie 2, LaPort 2.
Half: 27-25 G.
Centennial 57, River Hill 40
The Eagles broke open a one-point game at the half, scoring a season-high 57 points offensively. Brook Anderson led the way with her own individual season high of 21 points, including five threes, and Rasa Welsh chipped in with 12 points.
Kennedy Clark led River Hill in the loss with 17 points.
C (5-4, 8-6): Anderson 21, Welsh 12, Molz 7, Reese 6, Lambert 6, Dossett 2, Hamshey 2, Rockefeller 1.
RH (3-6, 9-6): Clark 17, Dawitt 12, King 4, S. Jackson 3, E. Jackson 2, Masker 2.
Half: 21-20 C.
Reach Brent Kennedy at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports