A day after struggling through one of the worst games of his high school career, River Hill’s Charlie Thomas was a man on a mission Thursday evening.
The Hawks’ junior forward scored 34 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter, to help his team hold off Centennial down the stretch for a 67-62 victory on the road.
For Thomas, who had scored only two points against Mt. Hebron less than 24 hours earlier and still remembers the sting of losing to Centennial in last year’s playoffs, there was a definitely a chip on his shoulder.
“Everybody has off days, but after yesterday it was on me to bounce back and step my game up,” said Thomas, whose 34 points were a career high. “The third quarter, Centennial made a little run and I knew what I had to do. It was time for me to step up and take over.”
River Hill (3-0, 3-0) had established a lead of as many as 14 points in the early going and led by 13, 33-20, at the half. Mike Titus (11 points) and Gary Sandler (9) each played big roles in building that cushion
But Centennial (2-1, 2-1) regrouped during intermission and made a huge push in the third quarter behind the quartet of Tom Brown (19 points), Isaiah White (13), Walter Fletcher (12) and Chase Conley (6). By the end of the quarter, following back-to-back lay-ups from Brown, the Eagles were back within four, 42-38.
That, however, is when Thomas found another gear. With a mixture of jump shots, lay-ups and free throws, the big man single-handedly kept Centennial at an arm’s length. He ended up finishing with 19 of his team’s 25 points in the final period, including a thunderous dunk courtesy of a pass off the backboard from teammate Deion Richardson (7 points).
“After last night’s performance where he just got frustrated, he needed a breakout performance and it was the perfect scenario for him because we were on the road against the team that took us out of the playoffs last year,” River Hill coach Matt Graves said. “You could tell in the back of his mind, he realized he had to do things to help us win this game. And the great thing was he did it all over the court and the other guys kept doing a great job of getting him the ball in position to score.”
Centennial still battled to the very end, getting 3-pointers from Chad Strothers (7 points) and Fletcher in the final minute to keep things interesting. Ultimately, though, River Hill hit enough foul shots to seal the victory.
There’s little time for the Hawks to celebrate, though, with a game against Reservoir looming Friday night. As it is now, River Hill sits as one of just two county teams — the other being Oakland Mills — still without a loss.
“We have to keep pushing like we did tonight and cannot let up at all,” Thomas said. “We need this same intensity tomorrow if we want to keep this going.”
River Hill 67, Centennial 62
RH (3-0, 3-0): Thomas 34, Titus 11, Sandler 9, Richardson 7, Heitzmann 4, Schlecht 2.
C (2-1, 2-1): Brown 19, White 13, Fletcher 12, Strothers 7, Conley 6, Clemens 3, Wilkin 2.
Half: 33-20 RH.