Reservoir senior Zelor Massaquoi’s mind appeared to be elsewhere in the first half of the Gators’ Maryland 3A East region quarterfinal against River Hill, as the Grand Canyon University commit scored just five points and picked up two fouls.
Wednesday was the birthday of her father, Francois Massaquoi, who was assassinated in Liberia while serving as a diplomat. She was 5 years old at the time of his death.
“Today was just a really sad and emotional day for me,” Massaquoi said. “But I saw the way [teammate] Keri [Rager] was hustling, and I knew I couldn’t disappoint her. If I love my dad the way I do, then I have to play hard for him.”
In the second half, the fiery Massaquoi focused on the moment, scoring 17 points for a game-high total of 22, and the Gators defeated River Hill, 51-41, in Fulton. Reservoir will host Atholton in Thursday’s semifinal.
The win avenges a second-round loss to the Hawks last season.
Massaquoi finished with a double-double as she grabbed 12 rebounds. She also added a crucial rejection with the Gators up six and just less than four minutes remaining.
A River Hill ballhandler made a right-handed drive and appeared to have an opening, but Massaquoi left her player to help on defense to slam the ball into the padding on the gymnasium’s wall.
“It was big. She loves to make the statement play, whether it’s an and-one or a block,” Reservior Coach Kyle Sullivan said. “She plays with a lot of fire and a lot of passion that you don’t always see in a high school girls’ game.”
Rager added 14 points and constantly hit the ball for loose balls for the Gators (16-5). The teams were deadlocked at 18 at the half and after four lead changes in the third, Reservoir lead 32-31.
River Hill (15-10) had nearly a five-minute scoring drought in the final quarter as the Gators turned up the defensive pressure. Hawks senior Jenna Collins scored a team-high 20 points.
Seth Henry scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in his first 20-point outing since Dec. 16 against Howard. The 6-foot-1 junior also stuffed in a one-handed jam late in the fourth quarter, his first dunk of the season.
“I came into this game trying to make open shots, and my teammates pretty much did the work for me,” Henry said. “Whenever I was in the open spot, they got it to me.”
Senior point guard Joe Kearney added 14 points and just missed completing his first dunk of the season. Kearney made a drive to his left and soared to the rim but the ball rolled around a couple times before it dropped.,
“I think I took off a little too far,” Kearney said. “I got up and tried to flush it down and I wasn’t high enough, but at least it went in.”
The Gators (17-6) will host Glenelg on Thursday in the region semifinal.