Chatney Howard scored a game-high 30 points and Southern-AA posted an important Class 2A East Region victory last night, 88-76 over South River.
"It didn't matter who we had to play tonight," said Southern coach Tom Albright. "What was important was to get off to a good start because of little gym time before a long, tough schedule."
Anne Arundel County teams had not played since Friday, Jan. 14, because of the bad weather and now face a grueling schedule with five games in nine days.
With exams over yesterday, teams were permitted to resume play last night after two days of 90-minute practice sessions. Most county teams play again tomorrow, then again Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week.
Eighth-ranked Southern (8-2), a perennial 2A playoff contender, and No. 16 South River (8-2) are vying for the top seed in the Class 2A East Region with second-ranked Dunbar of Baltimore, last year's state 1A champion. The Poets moved up to 2A this season and South River moved down from 3A.
Howard, last year's Baltimore Sun Anne Arundel County Player of the Year, played as if he had not been away to lead the Bulldogs to victory. The senior had 13 rebounds, seven assists and four steals to go with his 30 points.
With 1:20 left in the game, Howard brought the crowd to its feet in anticipation of a slam, but he was leveled by the Hawks' Russell Tongue. Howard landed on his face, and Tongue, who tied Corey Davis for team-high honors with 21 points, landed on his back, but neither was injured.
It was Tongue's fifth foul, and seconds after he took a seat, Howard got another chance and slammed it home for his final points of the night. That culminated a 21-12 run in the final 5 1/2 minutes.
South River trailed by only eight points, 59-51, to start the final period and got within six points four times before Southern went on the game-clinching run. Howard's slam put the Bulldogs up 87-73.
"I was worried about their speed before the game and we made the mistake of getting into a running game with them and we're South River, not Southern," said Seahawks coach Ken Dunn.
It also didn't help that the Hawks sank only 12 of 32 free-throw attempts.
Southern hit 13 of 25 and out-rebounded the Hawks 54-35 for the game with a 26-12 advantage on the boards in the second half.
Eddie Paddy matched Howard in rebounds with 13 and had eight points, and Rico Gross pulled down eight rebounds to go with his 10 points. Corey Contee led three other Bulldogs in double digits with 11 points, followed by 10 each from Ryan Petska and Adrian Turner.
Southern led most of the way, building a three-point lead, 22-19, at the end of the first period to 39-27 at the half to take early command.
"I wasn't happy with our defense, but that's because we haven't been in the gym," said Albright. "Hopefully it will be better Friday night."
Southern plays host to longtime archrival and 10th-ranked Annapolis at 7:15 p.m. tomorrow.