BY Rob Witham
H-P Sports Reporter
So, it’s only 55 seconds into the basketball game, one of your best players picks up their second foul while your opponent is in the middle of an 8-0 run to start the contest. Your point guard is away on holiday break and her replacement is just back from injury.
That’s the exact scenario head coach Michael Rohr and his Hanover Hawks faced last Wednesday night, barely underway in the championship game of the Lady Cavs Holiday Classic at Caroline High School against unbeaten Powhatan, a Region 4B rival. Then unbeaten, the Indians raced to an 8-0 lead as Jordan Davis visited the bench early with a pair of fouls. It was time for patience, and some perseverance.
“Up 11-0 last night, tonight down 8-0,” Rohr recalled, referencing Hanover’s 62-20 win over John Marshall in the previous evening’s semifinal round. “I thought we had some good looks, we just didn’t make a shot early. Davis getting her second foul made us nervous for sure.”
The Hawks, guided by Madison Miller, in at point guard for Rachael Metzger, took a deep breath, calmed down, and went to work. It was 13-7 after a period. It would be Sarah Johnson inside the paint who led the charge for Hanover before halftime, scoring seven of her nine points in the first half. Davis navigated play without picking up a third foul, and, when the teams went to the locker rooms at halftime, the Hawks had tied the game at 22. Adrianna Jacobs contributed four important points off the bench to get the Hawks back in the game.
Then, in the third quarter, it was Hanover’s turn to fly. The Hawks produced an 8-0 run of their own for a 30-22 lead after a Julia Mardigian three-pointer. After the Indians answered with seven straight points, the freshman was fouled trying another trey. Mardigian made one of three free throws, and it was 31-29 with 2:17 remaining in the period.
Going into the fourth up 37-33, the first half of the final period featured a lot of action, and very few points. The Indians stayed within reach, down just three at 38-35 with 3:52 to go. But they had lost forward, and sharp outside shooter Katie Henderson, who went down hard on a fast break and was helped to the bench favoring her right knee. Without Henderson, Powhatan struggled to replace her offensive output, especially her ability to both score inside or outside.
Hanover scored twice to up their lead to 42-35 with 2:07 left. Powhatan wouldn’t score again, as Miller lined up to make two free throws, then defense finished the job. 46-35 was the final tally, and Hanover held the Lady Cavs Classic trophy high once again. Miller hit a three-pointer in each half, made her only free throws near game’s end, but contributed so much more than eight points, controlling the offense, patient with the basketball, and helping lead the defensive charge.
Mardigian led Hanover (4-2) with 14 points, eleven of them in the second half, while Davis, who never picked up another foul after those first fifty-five seconds, contributed nine points.
“I knew if we could weather it, we’d be okay, because our defense is pretty good right now,” Rohr noted, referring to the shaky start. “We said in the locker room that they were being tougher than us on the glass in the first half. We were making them take tough shots, but weren’t finishing with rebounds.”
Johnson helped make sure that happened much less in the second half. Jacobs, along with Jessica Russell and Ellen Palya, assisted as well. The loss was Powhatan’s first of the season, and perhaps the most notable statistic of the evening was the Indians scoring eight points in less than three minutes, then just 27 in the final 29 minutes of the game.
The new year brings with it plenty of challenges in Capital District play, beginning with a trip to Atlee to face the new-look Raiders on Friday, January 5th. Seventh-ranked Varina and third-ranked Highland Springs loom before mid-January. The Hawks will need as many wins as possible to ensure good playoff positioning in Region 4B, where another matchup with the Indians is quite possible.
But thanks to the ability to stop for a moment and see the big picture, the Hawks, who played beyond their years, have enjoyed Christmas once again as a tournament champion.