The 2013-14 campaign for the River Hill girls basketball program may have been completely different from last winter, but in the playoffs, the slate gets wiped clean. On Friday evening, the defending 3A state runner-up Hawks got their first taste of postseason play, traveling to Wilde Lake for a Section II East regional first round matchup.
Despite sophomore Rachel Lazris’ game-high 26 points, River Hill (12-8, 14-8) found a way to hold off the late-charging Wildecats (7-13, 9-14). Solid production from Julia Collins, who notched a double-double effort with 16 points and 13 rebounds, helped the visitors roll to a 53-46 victory.
“I think we were just a step slow today, but we still pulled it off,” said River Hill coach Teresa Waters. “I think Wilde Lake is up-and-coming, but at the same time, we have other teams (in our way) that are very good too. We just have to get better.”
Amped up from the start, the Hawks flew out to a fast 8-0 lead. Sophomore point guard Jessie Hopkins (11 points) scored her team’s first six points, setting the pace with a 3-pointer less than three minutes in that had the Wildecats trailing early.
Wilde Lake coach Bob Cranford said his girls changed their defensive press to avoid fast breaks, and that seemed to slow down the scoring. They finally got on the board when Lindsey Williams drained one of her two attempts from the line with 4:01 left in the opening quarter.
“We didn’t want to be in a track meet with them, because they have some great athletes,” said Cranford. “I just told our girls that we wanted to go one basket at a time.”
The second frame started just as the first one ended, with River Hill building on its advantage. After failing to score in the first eight minutes, Collins piled on seven points and seven rebounds heading into the break with her team ahead, 31-22.
“It was very intense,” she said. “Both teams played hard, which is really what made it tough.”
In the second half, River Hill’s failure to create a consistent organized attack met a Wilde Lake offense desperate to get back in contention. Because the Hawks focused so much attention on Williams, who finished with six points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, Lazris was able to fire on more open looks. Alyssa Bialek (10 points, seven rebounds) also contributed to the comeback efforts.
Down the stretch, the Hawks’ inopportune errors cost them a large portion of their lead. Turnovers didn’t mix well with 59 percent effectiveness from the foul line on the night. “We just had to clam down and think,” said Collins.
Still, a four-minute, 11-3 run to start the fourth quarter nearly put the game away for River Hill. The Wildecats got their final 13 points from Lazris, whose two late 3-pointers still weren’t enough to avoid the early playoff exit.
“They played really hard, and we told them in the beginning of the year that we’re not going to go from the bottom to the top,” said Cranford. “But, when you get so close like that, it’s tough. We almost had it.”
The first-year coach said this season’s consistent problems ultimately plagued his squad in the end, including failing to put together a complete four quarters of basketball.
His girls were visibly upset in the locker room following the loss, which gave Cranford a bit of hope for the future of his team. “It proved how much they wanted the win,” he added. “I’m very proud to have coached them this year.”
Set to play Reservoir on Tuesday, Waters said her girls have a lot to improve on.
“We’re going to go back and watch some game film,” she said. “One thing our kids have to understand is to play better as a team. They have to involve everyone in that team concept.”
River Hill 53, Wilde Lake 46
RH: Julia Collins 16, Jenna Collins 14, Jessie Hopkins 11, Chelsea Buchiane 6, Margaux Hrab 4, Annie Clark 2.
WL: Rachel Lazris 26, Alyssa Bialek 10, Lindsey Williams 6, Brynn Drury 4.
Half: 31-22, Hawks.