As the intensity mounted in the final 30 seconds, Marriott’s Ridge sophomore Jaden Washington remained calm. Although Washington played considerable minutes as a freshman, he was undeterred by the big moment.
The young point guard went to the line 27.1 seconds clear and two points clear in a one-on-one situation. Washington missed two fouls early in the period and the Mustangs as a team were 3 of 12 at the line. It didn’t matter this time. Washington calmly and confidently deflected two shots and extended the Mustangs’ lead to four.
She wasn’t done yet. Washington added three more throws and scored nine of their 13 points in the fourth, a key role at Marriott’s Ridge that sealed a 45-39 win over Reservoir.
“Every time I get the ball, it’s a new thing,” Washington said. “I just don’t really pay attention to the mistakes and really try to keep looking for different ways that can help my team.”
While Washington’s clutch free throws sealed the game, Marriott’s Ridge (6-8, 4-5 Howard County) turned the momentum in the first five minutes of the second half. Mustangs offensive leader Kerri Lee struggled with just one point in the first half as her team was two points behind at halftime. Coach Sarah Miller had a simple message for Lee: ‘You only need one, watch one go through the hoop.’”
Undeterred by the first-half struggles, the Mustangs made a concerted effort to get Lee the ball to the post. She scored nine of her team-best 15 points in five minutes, including several hard layups and a 3-pointer.
“After the first half, I ignored the fact that my shots weren’t fired,” Lee said. “I just knew I had to get good shots and once the first one fell, I knew if I got good shots the rest would fall.”
After just 18 points in the first half, Marriott’s Ridge scored 13 points in the first five minutes of the second and built a 31-22 lead. Then it was Reservoir’s turn to respond. The Gators (5-6, 4-5) kept the Mustangs scoreless until the final 3:20 as their offense was unleashed by Alissa Young. Young, who posted a team-high 23 points, catalyzed a 7-0 equalizer that sent Reservoir into the last quarter.
Washington quickly halted the Gators’ momentum. She had success attacking from the dribble with back-to-back baskets in the first 90 seconds, pushing the Mustangs’ lead back to six.
“That was huge,” Miller said. “If we hadn’t gotten those early buckets who knows if we would have even held that lead. Our conversation with Jaden is: ‘When you get your chances you have to take them, we need you to get to the bucket. You have to finish.’ She struggled in finishing early in the season but in the last couple of games she’s really taking that to heart and making big strides to give us some good momentum stop buckets. When she gets these, it’s hard to come back from them.
However, Reservoir kept fighting and made it a one-possession game with four minutes remaining. Marriott’s Ridge turned back to Lee. She converted a pair of hard baskets and again used an inside spin move to create a separation for a left-handed finish.
With a deficit of six in the last minute, Reservoir provided a final answer. After a turnover from the Mustangs, Jasmin Shelton converted a three-point play and put the Gators to three with 57 seconds left. However, that was their final field goal of the evening as the Mustangs cemented a charity race win.
“If you’re not scoring a lot of points, actually going from two to six is bigger than it looks on paper,” said Reservoir coach Deb Taylor. “I had to take two timeouts [early in the second half], we changed defenses twice during those timeouts. Then we finally found the one that worked. But I give credit to my children, they put a lot of energy and effort into it.”