When the River Hill girls basketball team stepped onto the floor against Reservoir Wednesday night, it was determined to avenge its only county loss of the season — a 49-24 lopsided defeat to the Gators last month.
It wasn’t a pretty game, plagued with turnovers and missed shots, but the host Hawks relied on tough defense and a late fourth quarter run to claim a 39-31 victory in a Class 3A East region semifinals contest.
“We didn’t play our best game but we found a way to win,” River Hill coach Teresa Waters said. “That’s all I asked them to do was find a way.”
Senior guard Meg Sterling scored a team-high 10 points, including seven in the closing minutes.
“Of course there was a little extra motivation for this game. They are a great team and we’ve been waiting for this moment to get back to the regional finals,” Sterling said.
With River Hill clinging to a slim 30-29 lead, Sterling drove to the basket, finished the layup and was fouled. She completed the three-point play, which sparked a 9-2 run and she added five made free throws.
“The defender was playing really great defense all game. I had a hard time getting the ball but I knew that I had to take it to the rack and get a good shot off,” Sterling said. “That was a turning point…”
Reservoir found itself playing without leading scorer and captain Zelor Massaquoi (12.8 ppg), who sprained her ankle in the Gators’ quarterfinal win over Atholton on Monday. In the first meeting, Massaquoi had 14 points and 19 rebounds in the win.
In her absence, junior Keri Rager stepped into the scoring role. Rager had a career night the first time around and looked to be on her way to another. She scored 11 points in the first half to help Reservoir take a 15-14 lead at the break.
River Hill began to take control when it opened up a 28-19 lead with 1:06 left in the third quarter after junior Jenna Collins (eight points, 11 rebounds) nailed a 3-pointer. Jenna Collins – who was plagued with foul trouble in the first half – came back in the third and was a catalyst, scoring five points and handing out three assists during an 11-0 run.
“It was so frustrating sitting on the bench. I was about to pull my hair out,” Jenna Collins said. “Thankfully my teammates were there to support me. We have really great chemistry and knew that we had to pull it out.”
But the Gators weren’t ready to go away, scoring 11 of the game’s next 13 points behind a 3-pointer by freshman Danaysha Turner and a pair of buckets by Tara Thompson to close within one point.
Sterling’s critical three-point play gave the Hawks some breathing room and they were able to put the game away at the foul line.
“I’m very proud of how our girls played,” Reservoir coach Kyle Sullivan said. “This was the hardest I think they’ve played all year but they were a little tired at the end. They left everything out there on the court.”
The top-seeded Hawks advance to Friday’s regional championship where they will face No. 3 Howard – a 67-33 winner over Stephen Decatur. It will be a rematch of last season’s 3A East title game where River Hill came away with a 46-33 victory.
Re: Rager 8, Johnson 5, Bonner 5, Turner 5.
RH: Ju. Collins 11, Masker 9, Rowe 4.