Through much of the recent past, the Chopticon Braves have represented a roadblock Huntingtown’s girls basketball team could never find a way past.
The Hurricanes had to earn it, but finally found a route to victory, overcoming a narrow late deficit to earn a 60-57 victory over the visiting Braves in a Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division contest on Wednesday night.
“Finally. This is the first time we’ve beat Chopticon since I took over the head coaching position,” said Huntingtown head coach Jennifer Shoup, in her third season at the Hurricanes’ helm. “Defense, we struggled with in the first half. At halftime, we talked about that would be our focus in the second half of the game, with making a few offensive changes. The girls were very well disciplined in the second half to come out and do what they needed to do to get it done.”
Huntingtown (6-3, 1-0 SMAC Chesapeake) trailed 31-26 at the break, but stormed out to a 6-0 run to open the third quarter, surging to a 32-31 edge on Kayla Gray’s bucket with 3 minutes 40 seconds remaining in the period. With Crista Link knocking down three three-pointers in the quarter to pace the offense, the Hurricanes went on to outscore their guests 18-10 in the frame to take a 44-41 advantage into the final period.
Link had struggled to find her long-distance shot over the first two quarters, but ended up knocking down five threes in the second half. She scored 17 second-half points to finish with a game-high 21.
“I just wasn’t hitting,” she said, “but I have teammates that really helped me get my confidence up and I was able to start hitting them.”
Successive threes from Caleigh Bergling and Katelynn Perrotta quickly put Chopticon (5-4, 0-1) back in front to open the fourth quarter, the first of six lead changes over the final eight minutes.
Later, Bergling’s third trey of the quarter put the Braves in front 57-56 with just over a minute to play. But the hosts scored the game’s final four points, with Kirsten Doty knocking down the go-ahead basket before Arriyana Bracero converted two free throws with 21.6 seconds to play.
Chopticon was able to get a couple looks at the potential game-tying three, but was unable to get a shot to drop to force overtime. Bergling’s 19 points paced the Braves, while Perrotta contributed 17 and Lilly Reynolds chipped in another 12. The Braves are next scheduled to host Great Mills at 6:30 tonight.
“Huntingtown is really good. I thought we gave them everything we could tonight,” Chopticon head coach Joe Cook said. “We played well at times, had the lead with 50 seconds left. It was a good game. [Link] hit some great shots at the end, hit some threes that hurt us. But we’re very pleased with the effort, not with the outcome, but with our effort and how we played at times against a very good team. It’s something to build on for us.”
Joining Link with at least 20 points for Huntingtown was Bracero, who scored 20, while Doty added 13. But it was the effort on the other end of the floor that Bracero thought was responsible for the Hurricanes’ victory.
“I feel like in the second half we really brought our defense together,” Bracero said. “It was one of the things we were talking about at halftime. The way we were going to win this game was with defense. We really stepped it up. And our offense was flowing. We hit a lot of big shots.”
“We started off a little slow, but we were able to come together as a team and really get things moving,” added Link. “We just worked together and things started clicking for us.”
For Huntingtown, there was no getting around the significance of earning a win against a Chopticon team. The Hurricanes are scheduled to travel to Patuxent tonight for a 6:30 tip against the Panthers.
“It’s huge for us,” Shoup said. “We probably haven’t beat Chopticon in at least six years. It’s been a very long while. We got a win here, we’re going down to Patuxent on Friday. We could end the week at 7-0 [against SMAC competition]. What I liked about tonight is that even though we weren’t clicking on all cylinders we were still able to get the job done, and they came together just at the right time at the end of the game. They played very well as a team at the end of the game.”
“This is a really big win for us,” added Bracero. “I feel like it’s going to give us a lot of momentum going into the rest of the season.”