The Washington Post

Halted Lions now refuse to be stopped

HOWARD 64, RIVER HILL 28

- BY KYLE MELNICK kyle.melnick@washpost.com

Midway through the second quarter Friday night, Howard guard Gabrielle Kennerly paused on a fast break and appeared to prepare for a jump shot. A moment later, however, the junior left her defender frozen and surprised the home crowd by continuing her dribble and finishing an open layup.

After that play, the Lions surged ahead in their eventual 64-28 win over River Hill. But the sequence also could summarize No. 18 Howard’s circumstan­ces the past two years.

Twice, the coronaviru­s has paused Howard’s season and lengthy winning streak. After each break, including a return from a three-week hiatus this week, the Lions (4-0) emerged as explosive as ever, and they have won 29 consecutiv­e games.

“There’s that scare of not being able to play another season,” said Kennerly, who scored a team-high 15 points in Ellicott City. “We’re trying to re-create our perfect season again, and it was really scary. But coming back, it was the top 10 happiest moments of my life.”

In March 2020, Howard was 25-0 and a few hours from a Maryland 4A semifinal when the state’s athletic associatio­n postponed — and later canceled — the games. The Lions hung a navy blue banner in their gym stating “PERFECT SEASON,” but the lack of closure irked players.

After the 2020-21 season was canceled, Howard entered November with another stellar squad, headlined by Towson signee Gabby Scott. But after Howard opened the season with a pair of dominant wins, Howard County on Dec. 15 became the first local jurisdicti­on to suspend sports this winter because of coronaviru­s spikes. Many other Maryland counties followed, and some, such as Prince George’s, still have not allowed play to resume.

During the hiatus, Howard’s captains led team workouts, driven by the belief they would return to the court. On Wednesday, the Lions blew out Glenelg in their first game since Dec. 10.

“Anger has been built up, wanting to play and display our great team that we have to show to everyone,” Kennerly said. “It’s really nice that we’re still able to do that.”

In its first home game in 22 months, Howard led by 12 points after the first quarter against River Hill (4-1), the previous 2A champion, before Kennerly’s highlight powered a 23-0 run. A running clock began two minutes into the third quarter.

When they gazed at the perfect season banner near their bench, Lions players felt bitterswee­t. This winter, they’re set on claiming a more legitimate banner in 3A.

“There’s unfinished business that we have to take care of this year,” Scott said. “Obviously we couldn’t play in the state championsh­ip, which is very disappoint­ing. But we’re still undefeated.”

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