Feeding off its relentless press, Howard executed a 9-0 run in the opening four minutes of the second quarter. That stretch pushed the Lions’ lead to 19 and they didn’t look back in a 60-34 victory over Marriotts Ridge.
Junior guard Gabby Kennerly led all scorers with 18 points, spearheading a balanced offensive attack. Freshman Meghan Yarnevich finished with 12 points and senior Gabby Scott tallied seven.
“The more balance we have, the harder it is for teams to defend us,” Howard coach Scott Robinson said. “We talked about that, the more we can share the ball, the better we’re going to be. It’s a great group of girls.”
Yarnevich made her presence felt in the paint during the second quarter, where she scored five of her 12 points and the Lions outscored the Mustangs 16-5. The freshman’s stellar post play caused the Mustangs to get into foul trouble contributing to the Lions’ 18 first-half free throws. She also helped create second-chance opportunities for Howard.
“I would say Meghan is our secret weapon,” Kennerly said. “She’s a great teammate, a great friend and every time she plays, she just plays hard and aggressive. It’s rare to see that and that’s what makes her different and able to get open like that and hit the shots that she does.”
Defensively, Howard (7-0, 7-0) smothered Marriotts Ridge throughout, not allowing it to get into a fluid rhythm offensively. Junior guards Samiyah Nasir and Jenna Vetter hounded Mustangs senior Talia Trotter, not allowing her to find consistent open space.
Trotter entered the contest as Howard County’s leading scorer averaging 22.6 points per game, but finished with a season-low 13 points. Nasir and Vetter’s ball denial made it challenging for the talented senior to get the ball in advantageous positions.
“I thought Samiyah and Jenna both rotated on Talia and did a great job,” Robinson said. “[Talia] is a great player. With that respect we had to do what we could to try and negate her the best we could. It was hard.”
Trailing by 21 at the half, Marriotts Ridge’s (4-4, 3-3) offensive struggles continued in the second half. After Kerri Lee executed a three-point play in the opening 20 seconds, the Mustangs went the ensuing 5:26 without a field goal. Like the first half, Howard’s stifling defense made it challenging for Marriotts Ridge to get uncontested opportunities.
“It was difficult for us to get the ball in and then from there getting into our offense,” Marriotts Ridge coach Sarah Miller said. “They play intense defense, they’re in your face. They themselves are very good in transition, so if you’re not ready for the transition, it’s going to come back to bite you. I thought we started off alright and you know they’re an animal right, they keep coming and they’re an excellent team.”
The Lions have continued building on their success from their perfect 2020 season that ended prematurely due to COVID-19, fielding the county’s toughest scoring defense.
“It’s just great to know that we’re still as strong or even stronger than the 2020 team that we had,” Kennerly said. “We’re still working because it’s not over yet.”