Holding off a spirited Long Reach comeback in the second half, Reservoir finally got the signature victory it’s long been searching for on Wednesday.
Senior Emily Dorn filled the stat sheet with 28 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 blocks, while sophomore Abby Bailey added a double-double (10 points, 17 rebounds), to help the Gators prevail down the stretch on the way to a 59-51 victory over the Lightning.
“We’ve been so close, so many times and what we needed tonight was that first true signature win. And this was exactly that for us,” said Reservoir coach Deb Taylor, who had never previously beaten Long Reach since taking over the program prior to the 2015-16 season. “Long Reach is that good, they deserve all the accolades they’ve gotten. But our girls really stepped up tonight to help us break through.”
Dorn added that she and her teammates had plenty of motivation, coming in at 1-1 on the season and the sting of losing by a point to the Lightning in last year’s 3A East region playoffs still fresh.
“Nothing feels better than working so hard, and after four years for me and the other seniors, to [finally] beat Long Reach,” she said. “Everyone has been improving, everyone has been working together, and that’s how we won it — team chemistry.”
Defending county-champion Long Reach (1-1), which came all the way back to tie the game at 49-49 in the fourth quarter after trailing by 16 points, 34-18, at the half, was led by Lyric Swann’s 22 points in the loss.
Coach Kelli Cofield said her team struggled to match the host Gators’ intensity at the onset.
“We tell our girls that we have to expect to see everyone’s best every single game, especially after last season, and tonight we did not meet that challenge from Reservoir in the first half,” Cofield said. “You hope we can learn from that and bring the energy we had in the second half to a full four quarters moving forward.”
Dorn scored the game’s first five points and Reservoir (2-1, 2-1) had itself a 12-6 advantage by the end of the first quarter following a jumper from Tiffany Hooker (7 points).
The lead steadily grew from there in the second quarter, with Dorn and Bailey scoring on the interior and Kate Abunassar (9 points) knocking down some big outside shots.
Long Reach regrouped, however, after intermission and opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run that included threes by both Lyric Swann and Jaelyn Swann (13 points). The Lightning ended up outscoring the Gators 15-4 in those first eight minutes of the second half.
The comeback continued in the fourth quarter and following a layup by Arianna Briggs-Hall (6 points, 11 rebounds) with 2:23 left in regulation, the game was tied at 49.
“After getting out-worked in that first half, I thought our intensity was a lot better after halftime and it started with getting those 50-50 balls,” Cofield said. “We did a much better job playing as a unit both defensively and offensively.”
Despite the game being tied for the first time since the opening minute, Taylor said she was extremely pleased with her team’s composure.
“You know against a team like Long Reach that no lead is safe, not with the way they can shoot the ball and with the senior leadership that they have,” Taylor said. “But we’ve got some pretty amazing senior leaders too. You get kids like Em and Nat [Verna], even Tiff as a junior, that have been in big games like this before and they didn’t get rattled. Instead of folding, they responded.”
Out of a timeout, Reservoir found Dorn in the post and she converted a layup with just over two minutes left on the clock to put the Gators back in front. Then, over the next 90 seconds, Reservoir scored five more points and held the Lightning scoreless to essentially ice the game.
Verna (5 assists) hit a pair of foul shots with a second left to create the final margin and the celebration was on shortly after.
“All the emotions are coming out and it’s just so exciting,” Dorn said. “I think this is just a statement to the county and I think we are just going to keep working and building off [this] game.”
Reservoir 58, Long Reach 51
Re (2-1, 2-1): Dorn 28, Bailey 10, Abunassar 9, Hooker 7, Verna 2, Turner 2.
LR (1-1, 1-1): L. Swann 22, J. Swann 13, Briggs-Hall 6, Streeter 4, Richardson 3, Thompson 3.
Half: 34-18 Re.
Reach Brent Kennedy at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports