River Hill girls basketball

The girls basketball state playoffs begin Thursday at UMBC's RAC arena. River Hill will square off against Friendly 9 p.m. Thursday in the 3A semifinals. (Staff photo by Brian Krista / March 6, 2013)

Motivation may be the River Hill girls basketball team’s biggest strength this weekend when they return to the Retriever Activities Center (RAC) on the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus for the Class 3A state final four.

The Hawks will face Friendly at 9 p.m. on Thursday night in the semifinals.

River Hill advanced to the title game last season before falling to Aberdeen, 62-48. Led by five senior leaders (Meg Sterling, Vicki Rowe, Jordan Masker, Andrea Nichols and Tyler Triplett), the team is laser focused in finishing what they started a year ago.

“We know the feeling of getting to states and losing. That was probably the worst feeling ever,” Rowe said after River Hill won the 3A East regional crown last week. “I really don’t want to repeat that. As a senior, I don’t have a next year so the team has to finish our business.”

The Hawks (22-3) will have a tall task if they want to be the last team standing. They enter the four-team bracket as the smallest in stature without a single player standing six-foot or taller.

Each of the other three squads have at least one six-footer, Damascus had three.

Rowe (5-foot-10) and Masker (5-foot-11) will have to be strong in the post against the taller competition.

Hawks coach Teresa Waters believes that her team is up for the challenge.

“They understand the significance of boxing it. It’s crucial,” she said. “Height you can’t teach but its not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Sterling leads River Hill in scoring with 15.2 points per game to go along with nearly five steals. Juniors Julia and Jenna Collins both add nine points per contest and add six boards per contest. Jenna had a team-high 12 points against Aberdeen.

“The experience of being here will be helpful but we’re a different team from last year,” Waters said. “The 3A is often times the toughest bracket. We look at this as a great opportunity to be here. We’re going to put our shoes on, lace them up and give it everything we’ve got.”

Here is information on the other teams in the 3A final four. The state championship game is scheduled for Saturday, March 9 at 8 p.m.

Friendly

Last state appearance: 1997

The Patriots of Prince George’s County enter Thursday night’s semifinals on fire, winning their last 12 games. The team boasts two Division I-bound players in Chayla Lewis (Central Connecticut State) and Janay Carter (Delaware State). Lewis averages 16.5 points and 10.3 rebounds each time out, while Carter (6-foot-1) adds 11.3 points and nearly 10 boards.

“We’ve played extremely hard through a great conference schedule,” Friendly coach Carroll Holmes said. “We’re excited for the opportunity to compete for a state title.”

River Hill will have to find a way to combat the Patriots’ length and prowess on the offensive and defensive glass. Another staple of Prince George’s basketball is the transition game. Friendly (20-4) likes to get up-and-down the court quickly, so the Hawks will have to be get on defense to limit fast break opportunities.

Lewis is coming off a 21-point effort against Westlake in the 3A South regional finals where the Patriots outscored their opponent, 22-4, in the first quarter.

“What we know is that great defense and rebounding wins championships,” Holmes said. “We like to get up-and-down the floor and allow our defense to generate our offense.”

Aberdeen