By Craig Clary
January 16, 2019, 10:40 PM
Hereford (10-0) scored the last four points of the first half and first eight points in the second half to turn a 21-18 lead into a 33-18 bulge and eventually a 50-32 victory at Dulaney (7-6) in girls basketball action on Wednesday night.
Reese Harden (16 points, four steals), Isabella Peterson (13 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Rachel Saunders (11 points, seven assists, four blocked shots) led the unbeaten Bulls.
Hereford got all five of its starters involved in the scoring early, thanks to a half-court trapping defense that created turnovers and easy baskets.
Junior Harden and seniors Peterson and Brynn Deluzio had four points each, senior Rachel Saunders added three and senior Cameron Smith contributed two in the first quarter when the Bulls built a 17-8 lead.
Dulaney struggled shooting from the inside, but 3-pointers by Lodge and Riley McWilliams kept them afloat in the first quarter.
Lodge assisted Samantha White for the Lions first basket of the second quarter after a Saunders putback and the Lions trailed 19-10.
Lodge's second trey cut the deficit to six, but Harden converted a turnover into a fast-break bucket and the lead was 21-13.
"We probably had 30-plus turnovers, so a team that is quick and aggressive like that, you can't give them 30 more opportunities and credit to them they got steals and they finished their layups," Dulaney coach Jess Szymanski said.
A banked 3-pointer by Lodge and two free throws with 2:18 left by White cut the lead to 21-18.
That was the closest the Lions would get the rest of the way.
Harden's steal and layup and her perimeter shot with 40 seconds left until intermission bumped the lead back to seven.
"Last year when we played them, we were up by 10 the whole game and then they came back, so with that happening again this year, our team didn't want that to happen, so we just told each other that we had to push it and get back ahead," said Harden, whose squad won in overtime last year.
The Bulls kept the pressure on early in the second half and got a pair of layups off the bench from senior reserve guard Libby May to start the third quarter.
"She did great," Hereford coach Ellen Fitzkee said.
Harden added a perimeter basket and her steal and assist to Saunders made it 31-18 with 4:15 left in the quarter.
"We just talked about keeping our intensity and focusing, playing good defense, don't reach, just basically that defense creates the offense, so we had to play better defense and get some open shots and take the lead," Harden said.
Dulaney broke its scoring drought with a basket by Tess Valentino with 3:50 left in the quarter, but the misfires inside continued to plague them.
"We are playing our heart out on defense and you get a couple shot opportunities and you don't make it and the basket gets smaller and smaller and smaller," Szymanski said. "I'm just frustrated in the way that we executed."
Peterson finished with nine points in the second half when the Bulls pulled away and combined with Smith (seven rebounds) for 14 rebounds.
"Cameron Smith played almost the whole game and she was unbelievable on the defensive glass for us," Fitzkee said.
Peterson's inside work and her ability to create havoc at the top of the zone on defense is something Harden is used to seeing.
"I've played with her for seven or eight years and she has just been a great influence on the team and she definitely helps on the inside with defensive rebounds," Harden said.
Despite the victory, Fitzkee saw some things her team needs to work on down the stretch.
"We want our defense to fuel our offense and we were a step slow coming into the game," she said. "We needed to get our feet underneath of us. We were getting the ball and trying to get rid of it quickly, rather then getting our feet underneath of us. We needed to start getting set and making more deliberate passes."
Hereford, whose closest win was by one point over Manchester Valley early in the season, hosts Sparrows Point on Jan. 18, followed by a trio of tough foes at home against Pikesville (Jan. 23), New Town (Jan. 30) and Loch Raven (Feb. 4).
"We've played some easy teams, but we are getting into the thick of the season and this was our really big challenge in the league, so hopefully we can keep this up," Harden concluded.
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