In a game on Wednesday against Mt. Hebron where points were at a premium, River Hill’s Mike Heitzmann stepped up and delivered when it mattered most.
The sophomore guard scored 8 of his 12 points in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter, lifting the visiting Hawks to a 42-39 victory. It was Heitzmann’s 3-pointer with 1:37 left in regulation that served as the game-winner.
“I started getting more looks and I was ready,” Heitzmann said. “I knew we needed some big shots and I took them when I got them. At this point, I’m definitely confident in those situations.”
Heitzmann’s hot hand late, along with a game-high 19 points and 9 rebounds from Charlie Thomas, helped River Hill () win a game where it was held to its lowest point total of the season. In the end, the Hawks’ defense was the difference — punctuating things by holding Mt. Hebron (8-6, 10-7) scoreless for the final 90 seconds to preserve the victory.
“Overtime seemed to be looming the way the game was going, but we got the stops when we needed them,” River Hill coach Matt Graves said. “Winning on the road is tough and if you can do it this late in the year as we get close to February, you take it any way you can get it.”
Mt. Hebron, which was led by David Herlihy’s 11 points and 9 rebounds on the evening, controlled things at the onset. After a lay-up by Heitzmann in the opening minute, the Vikings buckled down and closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run to take an eight-point lead.
The seven-minutes scoreless stretch was among the longest all season for River Hill.
“We didn’t do too much different than we usually do, they just weren’t making shots and we were doing a great job of finishing the play by grabbing the rebounds,” Mt. Hebron coach Mike Linsenmeyer said. “Then offensively, we were making good decisions.”
But River Hill made an immediate effort to start finding Thomas in the second quarter, as the big man converted an old-fashioned three-point play to open the period. He ended up scoring 11 of the Hawks 13 points in the quarter and, just like that, River Hill had grabbed the lead back, 15-14.
“I felt like it was one of those things where we were getting good looks (in the first quarter), so it was just a matter of getting a few to fall and settling down,” Graves said. “We actually got them out of their comfort zone a little bit by pressuring their guards and that got some easy run outs for us. And, in a game like this, we had to depend a little bit more on that than we usually do.”
The second half was a back-and-forth affair the entire way. The lead changed hands six times and neither team led by more than five points.
A pair of foul shots by Zach Andreas (5 points) with 1:47 left tied the game at 39. However, on the very next possession, Heitzmann delivered the game-winning shot from the wing.
Mt. Hebron had several tries down the stretch to square things up, including a last-second three by Connor Maloney, but was unable to find the net again.
“They made the play and we didn’t, that’s really what it came down to,” Linsenmeyer said. “Compared to last game, where I think we lost by almost 20 against them, it was a lot better. I feel like we’ve really improved, but just didn’t get one to fall at the end there.”
River Hill now shifts its focus to a showdown on the road against Reservoir on Friday that will have major implications on the race for the top seed in the 3A East Region (Section 2). Earlier this season, River Hill defeated the Gators 55-53.
“Going over to their place in a game they want to win as badly as we do, the environment’s going to be tough and it’s going to be crazy,” Heitzmann said. “It’s a must win for us and it’s a must win for them too.”
River Hill 42, Mt. Hebron 39
RH (11-3, 12-5): Thomas 19, Heitzmann 12, Sandler 7, Patterson 2, Titus 2.
MH (8-6, 10-7): Herlihy 11, M. Smith 6, Trappuzano 6, A. Smith 6, Andreas 5, Duan 3, Maloney 2.
Half: 15-14 RH.