River Hill’s Walt Moody simply wasn’t going to let his team lose.
After watching Centennial erase a five-point fourth-quarter deficit and force overtime Wednesday, the Hawks senior stepped up and scored 11 of his career-high 31 points in the extra period to lead River Hill to a 55-51 victory on the road.
“We had fought too hard to lose that game,” said Moody, who hit six of seven from the foul line in overtime. “I was going to do whatever it took — rebounds, defense, scoring — to make sure we won.”
Moody’s performance down the stretch was especially critical for River Hill (8-1, 10-2) considering the team’s other main scoring threat, Charlie Thomas (14 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks), had fouled out during the first possession of overtime. But, just as they did against Long Reach earlier in the year, the Hawks found a way to win without their starting center on the floor.
After an old-fashioned 3-point play early in the overtime, Moody hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:50 left to give River Hill a lead it wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way thanks, in part, to his effort from the foul line to close things out.
“Walt’s a gamer and he wants the ball at the end,” said River Hill coach Matt Graves said. “He’s been in these situations and he’s comfortable taking the big shots, so we go to him. He seems to find a way to elevate his game.”
Although Moody was the star, Graves was quick to point out the quality efforts of the entire team on the road against defending county-champion Centennial (5-4, 6-5), which got a team-high 22 points from Omari Ringgold in the loss. Every time the Eagles made a push, the Hawks found an answer.
“It was a rollercoaster ride … so many highs and lows,” Graves said. “Our kids never stopped fighting, though, even when we went to that trapping four-guard line-up in overtime. Our speed, I thought, did a good job of negating their height.”
Centennial had River Hill on its heels in the first 10 minutes, opening up a 15-6 advantage on the strength of a trio of 3-pointers by senior Zach Olmstead, a couple lay-ups by Timi Tinuoye and another basket by Brad Benson.
River Hill stuck with the game plan and got itself back within six at the half and then made its big push in the third quarter. Following a dunk in transition by Thomas with 2:10 left in the third, the Hawks had their first lead of the game, 31-29.
That lead for River Hill grew to five, 38-33, a minute into the fourth quarter following Moody’s first 3-pointer of the night. Centennial, however, wasn’t about to just roll over on its home floor.
The Eagles forced seven turnovers over the final seven minutes of regulation and managed to tie the game at 40 by the end of quarter.
“We just changed tempo, went to a little pressure and got some good stuff out of it,” Centennial coach Chad Hollwedel said. “We finally were able to get ourselves into our sets, which is something for most of the night we struggled with.”
Centennial’s Joe Eads (6 points) drew the fifth foul on Thomas early in overtime and sank the ensuing two foul shots to give Centennial the upper hand. Following Moody’s 3-point play, Ringgold scored four straight points to give the Eagles their largest cushion of the extra session, 46-43.
As it turned out, though, the Centennial lead was short lived, with Gary Sandler (6 points) hitting two foul shots, Moody hitting a three and Michael Titus (4 points) converting a lay-up to put River Hill ahead for good.
“(Coach) Graves must have said it a hundred times over the past week how big this one was,” Moody said. “The mentality was: we need to beat Centennial to make the Reservoir game this Friday mean something. For the county, playoff seeding … we had to have this one.”
River Hill hosts Reservoir (6-3, 7-4) at 7 p.m. on Friday night.
River Hill 55, Centennial 51
RH (8-1, 10-2): Moody 31, Thomas 14, Sandler 6, Titus 4.
C (5-4, 6-5): Ringgold 22, Olmstead 9, Tinuoye 6, Eads 6, Fletcher 4, Benson 4.