When a verbal confrontation broke out in the stands with 67 seconds left in Reservoir’s girls’ basketball game at Howard on Tuesday night, resulting in a couple of concerned moms moving their kids to the other side of the gym and school personnel and security escorting a few adults out of the building, that looked like the peak of the drama for the evening.
Not so fast. Reservoir, which had trailed by 12 with five minutes left, closed the gap to one point in the final seconds before Howard escaped with a 37-36 victory in Ellicott City.
The win sets the Lions up for a chance to tie River Hill for the Howard County championship when the teams meet Thursday.
Junior Sydney Biniak, sophomore Jayda Gilmore and junior Emma Hoesman scored 10 points apiece for Howard to complete a regular season sweep of the Gators, despite the Lions managing only one field goal in the final six minutes.
After taking an authoritative dribble at the top off the key, Reservoir junior Zelor Massaquoi hit a three-pointer to make it a 36-33 game with 49 seconds left. Her free throw moments later made it 36-34.
Biniak sank one of two foul shots with 9.9 seconds left and Reservoir junior Tara Thompson drove for a layup with 1.6 seconds left to cut the deficit to one. But Howard (19-2, 16-2 Howard County) held on for its 10th straight win.
“We were completely focused on the game, no matter what happened in the crowd,” Gilmore said. “We weren’t paying attention to it. We knew we had to finish. It wasn’t the prettiest win, but I’m just happy it happened.”
“We’ve been in that situation before, and I think our girls have thrived in pressure situations,” said Howard Coach Scott Robinson, whose team has only one senior. “This year we were young and I really didn’t know what to expect. This group all year has just come together.”
Massaquoi, who had picked up her third foul late in the second quarter, led Reservoir (15-3, 15-3) with 16 points and 15 rebounds. The Gators continued their pattern of starting games slow and then playing catchup. They committed 11 of their 22 turnovers in the first quarter.
“When we went on our run at the end, we didn’t start to play any better. We just played with more intensity,” Reservoir Coach Kyle Sullivan said. “Imagine if we had played with that intensity from the start.”
The physical nature of the game Tuesday might help prepare Howard for its rematch Thursday at River Hill, a team that outrebounded the Lions by 20 in a 44-35 win on Jan. 7. The Hawks edged Mount Hebron, 50-46, on Tuesday to maintain a one-game lead over Howard.
“This was big,” Gilmore said. “This is what’s going to motivate us to get our next win over River Hill. In my mind, we’ve already won. We just have to get it over with.”