- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The diameter of the orange basket on a basketball court is exactly 18 inches.
But after Leonardtown Raiders senior Erin Buhler hit a three-point basket with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter of a Class 4A East Region playoff opening-round contest against the visiting Great Mills Hornets on Friday night, that basket might as well have been 20 inches.
When Buhler hit two free throws soon after, 22 inches.
Then, she hit another three-point basket, and at that point, the basket was as big as the ocean to the shooter.
In the midst of a Leonardtown 14-0 scoring run, Buhler hit another jumper to end her own personal 10-0 run, and that, along with her game-high 13 points, helped the Raiders eventually defeat Great Mills, 47-23, and advance.
With the win, sixth-seeded Leonardtown earned a trip to face third-seeded Arundel of Anne Arundel County for a quarterfinal contest Monday night, in which Leonardtown upset Arundel 55-42.
Buhler, for the second-straight playoff game, led the Raiders with 13 points, a game-high. Taylor Superior and Alyssa Bois each added 10 points in the Monday victory.
However, it was the defense that proved to come up large for Leonardtown as it trailed 23-16 at the half, but held Arundel to only five points in the third quarter, while scoring 18 third-quarter points, to take a 34-28 lead and never looking back.
“The girls played as a team, specifically on the defensive end of the floor,” Leonardtown head coach Christen Doerrer said.
The Raiders will play at second-seeded South River of Anne Arundel County in the region semifinals at 6 tonight.
The region semifinal trip is the furthest the Raiders have advanced to the playoffs under Doerrer, who is in her fourth year as head coach.
“The locker room and bus ride home was pretty loud as the girls were extremely excited to get a win of this magnitude,” Doerrer said.
Now, the Raiders can check off a goal they had this season, after improving to 11-12 overall.
“Now, we have 10 wins, which was our goal at the beginning of the season,” Superior said after Friday’s win. “That’s really exciting.”
Buhler’s individual 10-0 run on Friday night came after she had only scored two points in the first half.
“My jitters go away, and I feel more comfortable shooting,” Buhler said of making a couple of baskets. “I get less nervous and more comfortable with my shot, so I just shoot it like I shoot in practice.”
Even Superior, who turned in a double-double performance of her own with 10 points and 16 rebounds, took a second to realize the special stretch of quarter that her teammate had in the third.
“When she’s hot, she’s hot,” Superior said of Buhler. “When she is on, you’re just done. Erin is a huge help to the team. We wouldn’t be the same without her.”
Doerrer added on Buhler from Friday night, “She struggled a little bit early, but she came off the floor at halftime, and I said, ‘Keep shooting the basketball.’ Luckily, shots started falling in the second half, and that was big.”
But as shots started falling for Buhler and Leonardtown, the Raiders defense kept Great Mills shots from falling.
After a Sedatrius Mason three-point basket to open the third quarter for 11th-seeded Great Mills, the Raiders kept the Hornets off the scoreboard for the remainder of the third quarter and the first 3:20 of the fourth, totaling 10:52 of game time without a Hornets score, including eight Great Mills missed free throws.
“We knew we couldn’t let them [shoot] their threes because they have some pretty good shooters on the outside,” Buhler said of the Hornets. “We just wanted to keep them away from shooting and then get the rebounds underneath.”
Grabbing the rebounds underneath was Superior; she finished with nine offensive and seven defensive rebounds.
“It was just intense defense,” Superior added. “We were talking to each other, and we worked on that in practice. We just had to stay there with our hands up and watch out for their key players.”
Great Mills head coach Matthew Wood wraps up his first campaign as frontman with the loss Friday night.
Senior Tyniece Woodland led the Hornets (9-13) with eight points.
“Full of ups and downs, but overall, I enjoyed it and I hope the girls enjoyed it,” Wood said. “I think we all learned a lot and we’ll be back next year.”