During the fourth quarter of Monday’s key Howard County boys basketball match between Long Reach and Atholton, Lightning forward RJ Barnes knocked the ball out of the hands of an Atholton player. He scooped it, drove to the basket and finished with an emphatic dunk, sending the visiting Long Reach student section into a frenzy.
It was the signature play for Barnes, who finished with 20 points as the Lightning defeated the Raiders, 60-54, in Columbia.
“It felt amazing,” said Barnes, a 6-foot-5 junior. “We wanted this win so bad. Just doing everything we could to get this win.”
The victory keeps Long Reach (14-2 overall, 9-2 Howard) on pace with Wilde Lake (9-2 Howard), a 76-51 winner over Mount Hebron Monday, atop the Howard County standings. Wilde Lake has the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lightning.
Holding a terse 44-42 early in the fourth, the Lightning went on a 10-3 run to build their largest lead, 54-45. Brice Koontz started it with a score and Cameron Valentine’s basket closed it.
It was Barnes in between with six points, including his dunk.
“He just works hard,” Long Reach coach Andrew Lazzor said. “His size, his athleticism on the perimeter, all that stuff he brings to us, that’s hard to bring.”
Valentine, who scored 17 points, hit a 3-pointer midway through the first quarter for a 11-10 advantage. The Lightning led 22-17 in the second before Atholton responded with a 9-0 run, starting with Christian Jackson’s 3-point play and capped with Ayinde Deleon’s basket.
Long Reach pulled even at 31 at halftime, then itched out to a 44-40 lead after three quarters. Amir Shaheed’s basket brought the Raiders to 44-42, but Barnes and Lightning responded.
Atholton (7-8, 7-4 Howard) defeated Long Reach twice last season.
“The fundamental stuff we lacked today,” Raiders coach Jared Albert said. “Uncharacteristic of us. We’ll get there.”
LONG REACH 60, ATHOLTON 54
Long Reach - Ethan Maokhamphiou 11, Cameron Valentine 17, RJ Barnes 20, Jayden Sanders 2, Christian Dean 6, Brice Koontz 2, Mike Reid 2. Totals 25 8-10 60.
Atholton - Christian Jackson 4, Amir Shaheed 16, Camden Thibeault 6, Chris Martin 9, Eli Applebaum 7, Ayinde Deleon 6, Ian Morton 6. Totals 20 7-11 54.
Long Reach 15 16 13 16 — 60
Atholton 12 19 9 14 — 54