After struggling at the onset of Thursday’s opening round game of the Capital City Classic against Annapolis, River Hill’s Walt Moody knew his team was counting on him to step up down the stretch.

And, as has been the case so many times this season, the Hawks’ senior leader delivered.

Scoring River Hill’s final eight points, including the go-ahead three-point play with 0.4 seconds left, Moody helped his team to a 54-53 victory over the Panthers.

“No matter how tough those first three quarters were (for me), it’s about winning the game. My team needed me,” said Moody, who finished with 13 points after scoring just two over the first 20 minutes. “Since I’ve been on varsity, this is the first time we’ve even won one game in a holiday tournament, so this meant a lot.

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“At the end, I said to myself ‘I’m finishing this game, no matter what it takes.’ ”

On the deciding play, Moody received the inbounds pass on the left block, absorbed the contact from his defender, and sunk the shot to tie the game. Then, stepping to the line with a chance to put River Hill (5-1, 6-2) ahead, he calmly converted.

Annapolis (2-1, 3-4) got a desperation chance at the buzzer, but Damario Jackson’s 3-point attempt came up well short.

“Walt found another gear late in the game, and it was the gear that we needed because we weren’t getting much going inside most of the night,” River Hill coach Matt Graves said.

In the victory that advances them into Friday’s championship game against Meade, the Hawks also got big nights from Charlie Thomas (12 points, 9 rebounds), Mike Titus (10 points, 6 rebounds) and Mike Heitzmann (9 points).

Annapolis, which was playing without its leading scorer Delaszo Smith (21.5 ppg), was led by Juan Brown (18 points) in the loss.

The first three quarters were played primarily on the perimeter by both teams, with the game becoming a 3-point shooting contest during several stretches. Brown and Ronnie Johnson hit three shots each from beyond the arc to lead Annapolis, while Heitzmann hit three of his own from deep to lead River Hill.

Annapolis hit nine 3-pointers on the game, including back-to-back treys midway through the third quarter that gave the Panthers their largest lead at 40-34.

“The scouting report on them was they were going to shoot a lot of threes … their offense revolves around the 3-point line,” Graves said. “So it wasn’t a surprise to see them hitting those shots, it was just a matter of how many they were going to be able to hit. Thank goodness we got hot as well, because that kept us around.”

It was a three by Titus that got River Hill within one by the end of the third quarter and that set-up a back-and-forth final eight minutes. The lead changed hands six times down the stretch, capped by Moody’s heroics late that ultimately decided things.

River Hill 54, Annapolis 53

RH (5-1, 6-2): Moody 13, Thomas 12, Titus 10, Heitzmann 9, Sandler 6, Check 4.

A (2-1, 3-4): J. Brown 18, Johnson 12, Jackson 9, W. Brown 6, Coleman 3, Glover 3, White 2.

Half: 32-30 RH.

Other scores:

Oakland Mills 90, Parkville 43 (Oakland Mills Tournament)