Emily Dorn knew there wasn’t time to think, only react.
So as the Reservoir senior forward watched the ball carom off the rim and into her hands in the final seconds of the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s 3A East region quarterfinal against Mt. Hebron, she instinctively — in one motion — flipped the ball over her shoulder toward the basket.
Moments later, as the ball banked off the backboard and dropped through the hoop as the buzzer sounded to lift the Gators to a 50-49 victory, Dorn was swarmed on the floor celebrating one of the biggest shots she’s ever hit.
“I just kept thinking to myself that this was not going to be my last game at Reservoir,” Dorn said. “I think that definitely helped me, especially to get that last game-winning shot. I just stayed with it, everyone on the team stayed with it. People got a little bit frustrated, but we picked them up just like a team does and … we did it.”
Dorn’s game-winning put-back basket came at the end of a game in which she finished with 20 points and 20 rebounds, surpassing the 1,000-rebound mark for her career during the fourth quarter. She and junior Tiffany Hooker (21 points) hit big shot after big shot during the second half, accounting for 23 of the Gators’ 27 points over the final two quarters.
Ultimately, Reservoir (17-6) needed every single one of those points to overcome a Mt. Hebron (14-9) team that answered every challenge over the course of the evening. Tori Valentine finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists to lead the charge and it was her steal and three-point play with 1:26 left that put the Vikings ahead by one, 49-48.
Both teams had chances to add points over the final 90 seconds, but nothing found the net until Dorn delivered at the end.
“It was a phenomenal basketball game between two teams that played incredibly well. No one deserves to lose a game like that,” Mt. Hebron coach Tierney Ahearn said. “It was exciting and I felt privileged to be a part of it. It’s tough to walk in that locker room because you don’t know how to make them feel better and they deserve to feel great about the effort they gave.
“Reservoir simply made one more play and I wish them the best moving forward.”
Reservoir advances to play top-seeded Long Reach on Thursday in the 3A East Section I finals at 6 p.m. It will be a rematch of last year’s section final, which the Lightning won in overtime.
Gators’ coach Deb Taylor said she’s just thrilled for her team for hanging tough, especially for her seniors that get to play another day.
“I think some of the stuff that happened to us back in December showed us that a game is never over and that’s how they played tonight. We never stopped believing that we could make the plays we needed to extend our season,” Taylor said. “And it is somewhat fitting to have the ball in the hands of Em at the end there and to have her be the one to keep this thing going.”
Mt. Hebron was the aggressor early on, jumping out to a 9-2 lead in the first three minutes behind a mix of baskets in the paint from Valentine and Meredith Williams (8 points, 10 rebounds). Clarke Oliver (9 points) and Erin Dixon each added some hot shooting from the outside over the next few minutes and the Vikings led by as many as nine points in the late stages of the second quarter.
But Reservoir responded before halftime with a 9-2 run to trim its deficit to just two points going into the break and set the stage for a back-and-forth second half. Over the final two quarters, the game was tied six times.
Reservoir was ahead by four, 48-44, with 1:51 left in regulation before Mt. Hebron answered with baskets from Eve Chase (7 points and 9 rebounds) and Valentine to retake the lead.
The Gators ended up still being down by one with just over five seconds remaining. Off an out-of-bounds play, Reservoir missed its initial attempt from outside before Dorn swooped in for the deciding put-back basket.
Reservoir 50, Mt. Hebron 49 (3A East quarterfinals)
Re (17-6): Hooker 21, Dorn 20, Abunassar 3, Turner 2, Verna 2, Bailey 2.
MH (14-9): Valentine 20, Oliver 9, Williams 8, Chase 7, Dixon 5.
Half: 23-21 MH.
Howard 52, Catonsville 39 (4A North)
Ho (19-3): Russell 20, Harris 11, Sanchez-Henry 8, Scott 6, Malagar 5, Durkee 2.
C (17-7): Ferguson 10, Douglas 9, Syndore 7, Lawson 4, Wrisk 4, Sanders 3, Lewis 2.
Half: 29-17 Ho.
Long Reach 69, Centennial 45 (3A East)
Jumping ahead 15-9 by the end of the first quarter, the Lightning methodically built their lead from there. Long Reach effectively put the game out of reach by winning the third quarter 22-9.
Lyric Swann (21 points, 8 assists, 6 steals) and Malaya Streeter (19 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals) carried the offensive load, with Streeter scoring eight of her points during that decisive third period. Jaelyn Swann (13 points), Jalyn Richardson (9 points) and Rebecca Ford (4 points and 10 rebounds) each made significant contributions as well.
The Eagles were led by double-digit scoring performances from Brook Anderson (12 points) and Ashley Molz (11).
Long Reach will host Reservoir on Thursday at 6 p.m.
LR (16-4): L. Swann 21, Streeter 19, J. Swann 13, Richardson 9, Ford 4, Thompson 3.
C (4-20): Anderson 12, Molz 11, Welsh 9, Dossett 6, Pearson 4, Pellegrini 3.
Half: 32-24 LR.
River Hill 50, Hammond 48 (2A South)
Trailing by a point, 42-41, midway through the fourth quarter, the host Hawks made the plays necessary to pull out the two-point victory in its region quarterfinal game. Anihya Smith scored a game-high 17 points, while Emily Masker (10 points) and Saniha Jackson (10) joined her double figures for River Hill.
Imani Reid (19 points) paced the Golden Bears, while Nyelle Allen added 10 points.
River Hill will travel to face Oakland Mills in the region semifinals on Thursday.
RH (16-7): Smith 17, Masker 10, Jackson 10, Devine 6, Clark 4, O’Keefe 3.
Ha (13-11): Reid 19, Allen 10, Liguori 9, Fogle 5, Brown 3, Julius-Khumbah 2.
Half: 30-22 RH.
Oakland Mills 47, Marriotts Ridge 46 (2A South)
The Scorpions built a big lead and then held off a spirited fourth-quarter comeback to advance to the region semifinals. Aislynn Riggs registered a triple double (13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks) and Jazmine Washington scored a game-high 16 points for Oakland Mills, which built a 35-23 by the end of the third quarter.
But Marriotts Ridge, which was led on the evening by Kendall Bryan (11 points), Emma Miller (10) and Emma Morath (10), outscored the Scorpions 23-12 in the final eight minutes to nearly come all the way back.
Oakland Mills will host River Hill on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the region semifinals.
OM (18-5): Washington 16, Riggs 13, Scott-Pearson 9, King 6, McDuffie 3.
MR (10-14): Bryan 11, Miller 10, Morath 10, Conroy 9, Noll 4, Lee 2.
Half: 21-15 OM.
Reach Brent Kennedy at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports