Down 14 points midway in the third quarter Friday, Howard High girls basketball team’s regular season winning streak appeared to be on borrowed time. Not deterred, the Lions rallied to collect arguably their most impressive triumph in their run.
No. 5 Howard defeated eighth-ranked Mercy, 43-39, to win the Kim Harris Division championship at the All About the Girls Holiday Hoops tournament at Forest Park. In another Top 20 matchup, 13th-ranked Old Mill defeated No. 9 Forest Park, 49-43, for the Tracey Carrington crown.
After several previous fourth quarter hiccups, Old Mill was able to close the deal against a quality opponent. Senior post Amani Watts finished with a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Patriots (4-3 overall).
Trailing 35-31 entering the fourth after squandering a 7-point third quarter advantage, Old Mill outscored Forest Park, 18-8, over the final eight minutes to hand the hosts their first setback of the season.
It wasn’t pretty, but Patriots coach Henry Fuller enjoyed the end result.
“We finally decided to listen a little bit more and we just wanted to milk our ‘big’,” said Fuller.
Old Mill turned to Watts, whose 3-point play gave the Patriots the lead for good, 36-35, with 7 minutes left in regulation. She converted a free throw after grabbing an offensive rebound and was fouled on a putback attempt.
After another offensive board from Watts, Neveah Brown dropped a jumper, extending Old Mill’s lead to 39-35. The Patriots opened up a 46-39 lead after two free throws from Brown with 4:39 remaining.
“It was a momentum change,” said Watts. “We just kept the energy going.”
Old Mill led 27-20 in the third after Watts converted inside, but Forest Park went on a 11-0 run, capped by Chaniya Taylor’s layup, to take the lead. The Foresters had a 34-28 advantage after a 3-pointer from Aerion Stokes.
The Baltimore City school, which has a landmark victory over reigning Class 4A state champ Western as part of its undefeated start, struggled offensively in the fourth. The Foresters (7-1) went scoreless over the final 3:31 of regulation.
“We’re a young team that’s learning and understanding each other, so critical things will happen against well-coached teams like Old Mill,” said Forest Park assistant coach Greg Fitzgerald, who handled head coach duties for Jermaine Dunn Friday. “This wasn’t a bad loss, this was a good loss because this will help us in the long run.”
Behind a gut check effort, Howard (8-0) extended its regular season win streak to 48 as sophomore post Meghan Yarnevich finished with 15 points and nine rebounds and Mount St. Mary’s commit Gabby Kennerly scored all 14 of her points in the second half.
Dominated on the boards in the opening half and down, 24-10, in the third quarter, Howard came to life on both ends. The Howard County school went on a scintillating 31-8 run, over a 10 minute-plus stretch.
“We got a lot tougher. The first half we weren’t as tough as I wanted us to be,” said Lions coach Scott Robinson. “We got some rebounds, got out in transition and things just happened.”
“We kept saying keep your head up because the game is never over,” said Kennerly. “We were playing against ourselves.”
Kennerly’s 3-point play started a 13-0 revival, capped by freshman Alana Harrison’s 3-pointer, bringing the Lions to within 24-23 late in the third. Howard assembled another 13-0 run to start the fourth as Samiyah Nasir’s baseline score off a Kennerly pass, gave the Lions a 36-28 advantage.
“We weren’t playing our game,” said Nasir. “We needed to take a little step back and play poised.”
The first half belonged to Mercy (8-3), which ran off 12 unanswered points, for a 21-9 advantage late in the second quarter. The Magic, which kept Howard without a field goal for the final 9-plus minutes of the half, held a 25-9 advantage on the boards.
After Myah Hazelton’s rebound and score made it 24-10 with 5:17 left in the third, Mercy looked in prime position to end Howard’s streak.
The Lions found their stride and Mercy wasn’t able to respond, despite being down a possession with two minutes left in regulation.
“They completely flipped the script on us. They clamped us down in the second half,” said Magic coach George Panateogou. “We have the pieces, but we need to do it over four quarters, not two.”
Hazelton, a 6-foot-4 junior forward/center committed to Virginia Tech, led Mercy with 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Sophomore guard Milan Brown finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Kennerly had eight rebounds and two steals to go along with her 14 second half points, and Nasir finished with six steals and three assists for the Lions, who were routed by Poly in last season’s Class 3A state final.
Howard has upped its non-league schedule this season, including a victory against California’s Bonita Vista at the She Got Game Classic in Northern Virginia last month.
“Coming back is hard. It’s a real mental challenge,” said Kennerly. “Today was a great experience.”
ALL ABOUT THE GIRLS HOLIDAY HOOPS
at Forest Park
KIM HARRIS DIVISON CHAMPIONSHIP
NO. 5 HOWARD 43, NO. 8 MERCY 39
Howard - Yarnevich 15, Kennerly 14, Nasir 9, Harrison 3, Veter 2. Totals 14 12-19 43.
Mercy - Lizst 12, Brown 10, Hazelton 8, Carroll 4, Alguire 3, Betley 2. Totals 14 6-8 39.
Howard 9 1 13 20 - 43
Mercy 12 9 7 11 - 39
TRACEY CARRINGTON DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP
NO. 13 OLD MILL 49, NO. 9 FOREST PARK 43
Old Mill - Watts 13, N. Brown 12, J. Brown 11, Douglas 5, Futrell 5, Singletary 3. Totals 13 18-25 49.
Forest Park - Carroll 10, Taylor 9, Fitzgerald 7, Stokes 7, Malik-El 6, Hough 4. Totals 19 1-3 43.
Old Mill 11 12 8 18 - 49
Forest Park 10 8 17 8 - 43
Garon Everett Division at Concordia Prep
Consolation - Aberdeen 43, St. Paul’s 36
Championship - Severna Park 31, Roland Park Country 23
Chontell Manns Division at New Town
Consolation - Wilde Lake 49, Milford Mill 36
Championship - Annapolis 52, Maryvale Prep 42
Cornelius Scott Division at Concordia Prep
Championship - Meade 36, Atholton 33
Antonio Johnson Division at Catonsville
Consolation - Bryn Mawr 54, Central 36
Championship - Chesapeake-Anne Arundel 42, Catonsville 40
James Nichols Division at New Town
Consolation - Mount de Sales 47, Indian Creek 41
Championship - Henry A. Wise 44, New Town 25
Johnny Mack Division at Concordia Prep
Championship - John Carroll 40, Fallston 27
Joe Rosendale Division at Forest Park
Championship - Western 57, Oxon Hill 35
James Henderson Division at Concordia Prep
Consolation - Broadneck 46, Arundel 25
Championship - Dulaney 51, Concordia Prep 50