No. 10 Long Reach rallies to upend No. 5 Howard in girls hoops

Long Reach senior shooting guard Jaelyn Swann was a major part of a 15-0 run which catapulted the Lightning back into a key Howard County girls basketball game against Howard, Monday night.

by Nelson Coffin

The law of averages appeared to have caught up with the Howard High girls basketball team Monday night at Long Reach High.

The No. 5 Lions, who were out-rebounded by two of their first four opponents this season and still won, paid the price for its lax rebounding ability — especially on the offensive glass — against the 10th-ranked Lightning.

Previously unbeaten Howard (4-1) allowed bold and aggressive Long Reach to own the battle of the offensive boards by a whopping 14 rebounds in the second half alone, of the Lightning’s 47-44 triumph.

Neither team had much scoring punch in the Howard County battle that turned into a grind-it-out verdict for Long Reach, an outcome in sharp contrast to last year’s free-flowing 70-51 Long Reach win when the neighboring rivals met for the first time last season.

The top scorer in Wednesday’s contest, Howard junior guard Amil Harris, scored 13 points and nobody else on either team scored more than 10 points.

Even so, the positive result was exactly what the Lightning needed after dropping back-to-back games to Centennial and Reservoir.

“When we play Howard, we really get up for them,” Long Reach senior shooting guard Jaelyn Swann said. “But for this game we focused on ourselves and what we can do best. It was huge relief to get the win.”

Getting back on track was very important for Long Reach coach Kelli Cofield and her troops, although they had to claw back from an early 14-3 deficit to get back to the break-even mark after four games this season,

“We came out in a zone,” Cofield said. “We were trying to stay compacted, but they did a really good job against it. We had to come out and play man (-to-man defense).”

The Lions put together a 10-0 run in the opening quarter on a layup by sophomore guard Emily Durkee, a Harris jumper and consecutive three-pointers by junior guard Camille Malagar and freshman Gabby Scott to build the 11-point bulge.

After that, the home team’s man-to-man defense bogged down Howard’s offense quickly enough that the Lightning roared ahead, 22-16, on three successive three-pointers, two by Swann and one by senior guard Haley Thompson, midway through the second quarter to cap a 15-0 spree.

Long Reach maintained its advantage until Howard jumped back in front, 34-33, with under two minutes remaining in the third period on a Malagar three-ball.

The Lions were still ahead with less than four minutes left in regulation until senior small forward Ariana Briggs-Hall muscled inside for a bucket and Thompson’s drive gave Long Reach a 44-43 lead.

It was during the final rally that Howard had difficulty keeping the Lightning off the offensive glass.

“It’s a matter of toughness,” Howard coach Scott Robinson said about his team’s lack of vigor on the boards. “We were really living on borrowed time, and it caught up to us.”

Coifed said that, although her team was used to scoring 70 points or more in the past, winning a low-scoring game is fine with her.

“We have the talent to open the games up,” she said. “But we’re in a feeling-out period ourselves, trying to find the best combination of players (to put in the games). And beating an undefeated team shows what our potential is.”

The Lightning will have only one day to celebrate the victory because a game against Old Mill in the Howard-Anne Arundel challenge is on tap Wednesday in Glen Burnie. Howard will also travel to meet Meade the same day.

Pictured above: Long Reach and Howard battle for the opening tip in Monday night’s Howard County girls basketball showdown.

HOW 16 4 18 5 — 43
LR 9 17 9 12 — 47
HOW: Anil Harris 13, Emily Durkee 2, Camille Malagar 10, Gabby Scott 10, Marisa Sanchez-Henry 8.
LR: Rebecca Ford 8, Haley Thompson 10, Lyric Swann 8, Jaelyn Swann 9, Ariana Briggs-Hall 6, Jalyn Richardson 2, Malaya Streeter 4.