It’s difficult to embody a career’s worth of play into one game, but River Hill sisters Julia and Jenna Collins seemed to come close Wednesday night.
The senior swing players were a daunting presence on the court, and combined for 26 points and 20 rebounds in their final regular season game at home. But, behind four different scorers with eight or more points, it was the solid performance from the entire Hawks roster that led to a 52-41 victory over visiting Glenelg.
“We all played well together tonight, and everyone was looking for each other,” said Jenna Collins, whose game-high 18 points kept River Hill (11-8, 13-8) in control for most of the contest.
The Collins sisters joined Caitlin Gilbert and two team managers on senior night to be recognized for their efforts before tipoff. The Hawks’ leading scorer said there was a little bit of emotion heading into her final game at home, and that she hopes to get one more chance during the 3A state playoffs.
In the first quarter, the Gladiators (7-11, 8-13) threw everything they had in their arsenal at the Hawks. Olivia Nowlin (7 points on the night) started her squad off with a 3-pointer to set the tone. Also benefiting from early opposing foul trouble, Glenelg went 5-for-7 from the line in the opening eight minutes.
By the second quarter, the ball began to bounce the home team’s way, and before long, River Hill boasted a two-possession lead – an advantage that would fluctuate, but ultimately remain in the hands of the Hawks.
“We got into a flow of trying to push the ball down transitionally,” said River Hill coach Teresa Waters, who held her team’s foul trouble responsible for not growing the lead further before the break.
Though shots were slowly starting to fall, and her team had all the momentum, Waters’ girls were still leaving too many opportunities on the floor. The squad connected on just five points from the field in the second quarter, with many chances coming off first-look shots.
“That percentage is just not going to fly,” said Waters of her team’s performance heading into the break with a 27-24 lead. “We were able to pick it up and get everyone in the flow in the second half, just getting more touches from everyone before taking a shot.”
Her strategy proved effective. The Hawks only went to the line twice heading into the fourth quarter, yet still collected 10 points off shots and layups that exploited a Glenelg team that had difficulty stopping the ball in the lane.
“They hustled and got second-chance rebounds, so that’s a credit to River Hill,” said Gladiators coach Chris Biel. “We weren’t coming up with the 50-50 balls, and the threes were just rattling in and out.”
Still only ahead by four points heading into the final frame, the Hawks played lockdown zone defense, took their lead and ran with it down the stretch. Sophomore point guard Jessie Hopkins (11 points) added a three-pointer to open the quarter, which served as a momentum-builder.
The Gladiators put together a modest 7-5 run in the final 2:48 of the game, but it wasn’t enough to quiet the Hawks’ push. Senior guard Ally Forejt led her team with 11 points, Lauren Wright added eight points and 14 rebounds, and Julia Wolfrey wrangled 11 boards in the losing effort.
“I was impressed with the way my starters kept composure,” said Biel. “It was just the little things that broke us down at the end. It was an excellent effort.”
The Hawks roller coaster season has been tough to swallow at times for a team with high aspirations. Losing the first three games in county play got the winter off to a sour note, and even after defeating Howard on the road, the squad still wasn’t able to conjure a late-season rally to get into the county title mix.
Jenna Collins acknowledged her team’s struggles throughout the year, saying the team definitely needed the boost as the playoffs inch closer.
Citing the desire to “play as long as we can, get better every day and just relish the moment,” Waters added that the postseason is an entirely different beast to conquer.
“It can be anyone’s game,” she said. “We’ve been in situations where we’ve been the underdog before. But, we want to embrace the opportunity.”
Around the league:
River Hill 52, Glenelg 41