There were a few hiccups along the way, but Reservoir cleared its first hurdle in emphatic fashion Wednesday on the road to defending its 3A East region title.
Seth Henry scored 20 points, while Aaron McDonald and Joe Kearney chipped in 14 apiece, as the Gators used a 16-4 run at the end of the first half to separate itself and cruise the rest of the way to a 71-58 victory over River Hill in the 3A East quarterfinals.
Dating back to the regular season, it is the 11th straight victory for a Reservoir (17-5) team that advances into a regional semifinal match-up with Glenelg on Thursday. Glenelg defeated Howard County champion Atholton Wednesday, 61-54.
“I just told the kids, I’m only worried about playoff wins. The regular season was all well and good … but you get judged by playoff wins,” Reservoir coach Mike Coughlan said. “We got three last year … we just got one and I say you get judged by playoff wins because those are the tough ones. When it’s win or go home, you need to get it done and they are finding a way to do that.”
Reservoir wasted little time getting the upper hand against a River Hill (13-10) team that had closed the regular season with three straight losses. The Gators got a lay-up from Seth Henry in the first four seconds and spent the next four minutes increasing that lead all the way up to 16-0.
“Coach said that if we are going to go hard, we have to go hard from the beginning and that’s what we did,” said Henry, who added 11 rebounds on the night. “I had four quick points and I thought that started opening things up for my teammates right after that. It was a cycle and our lead just kept getting bigger and bigger.”
Complicating matters for River Hill was that the team’s leading scorer on the year, Charlie Thomas (21.2 point per game), injured his hip on the second possession of the game and was hampered by the injury the rest of the night. He played sparingly and managed just four points for the game.
But, for as dire as things seemed at the onset, River Hill did show some fight. The Hawks closed the first quarter on a 14-2 run of their own to get within four points, 18-14, after the opening eight minutes.
The Reservoir lead was still just four points, 21-17, two minutes into the second period.
But River Hill simply couldn't maintain its surge and the Gators used another extended run to close the half and create a double-digit lead once again, 37-21.
“We had a game plan established and it kind of goes out the window when you are down 16-0. The kids fought back and I give them credit for cutting it to four like they did, but we expended so much energy to get back,” River Hill coach Matt Graves said. “Once they went on that run again, I felt like it was just an uphill battle.
“It’s very difficult for us because we aren’t a team that is built to score a lot of points.”
Reservoir’s balanced attack, which also included 11 points from Kyle Reilly and eight from Alex Hedgren, kept River Hill from getting any closer than 13 points at any point in the second half.
In the loss, Mike Titus (18 points) and Deion Richardson (16) led the way for River Hill.
The Gators are right back in action Thursday night and, should the team win its home game against Glenelg, would play again Friday as well. While the prospect of three games in three days is challenging, Coughlan says his guys should be as well equipped to handle it as anyone else.
“I play 10 or 11 kids, so I don't really worry about (the short turnaround) too much,” Coughlan said. “We played three games in three days and four games in five days during a different stretch (during the regular season), so that’s part of it and then everybody is in the same boat too. So I think it’s to our advantage in that at least we’ve been through it and know what it’s like.”
Reservoir 71, River Hill 58
Re (17-5): Henry 20, McDonald 14, Kearney 14, Reilly 11, Hedgren 8, Reynolds 4.
RH (13-10): Titus 18, Richardson 16, Sandler 11, Patterson 6, Thomas 4, Ndiritu 2, Gable 1.
Half: 37-21 Re.
Other 3A East games:
Glenelg, 61, Atholton 54
The Gladiators had trailed for the majority of the first half, including 19-12 at the end of the first quarter, but a pair of 3-pointers by Zack Haussler (13 points) in the closing minutes of the second quarter lifted Glenelg to a 28-26 lead at the break. Using that momentum, Glenelg built itself a 45-36 lead by the end of the third quarter and then held off a late Raiders’ push for the victory.
“Hitting a couple shots there (at the end of the first half), I thought it allowed us to start spacing the floor a little better and get a few more to drop,” Glenelg coach Jansen McMillan said. “And as the ball started going in, I thought our defensive confidence went up as well.”
Dom Napoltitano finished with 18 points, 11 of which came in the first half, to lead the Gladiators. Nick Oates (13 points) and Matt Hammert (11) also had big games.
Justin Ballmer (13 points). Brandon Willis (12) and Michael Bernetti (11) all scored in double figures for Atholton in the loss.
The victory over the county-champion Raiders, who also were the top-seeded team in Section II of the 3A East region, marked the third straight win for a Glenelg team that has caught fire at the perfect time after finishing .500 overall during the regular season.
“It’s been a great few games and I kind of wish they had found this during the season, but I will certainly take it now,” McMillan said., “They are playing together as a unit and that concentration and focus is there. They are embracing that under dog role and using it to their advantage.”
G (12-11): Napolitano 18, Oates 13, Haussler 13, Hammert 11, Van de Wall 3, Helensky 2, Morgan 1.
A (18-4): Ballmer 13, Willis 12, Bernetti 11, Perdue 6, Kelly 5, James 4, Mason 3.
Half: 28-26 G.
Centennial 58, Mt. Hebron 38
The Eagles led from start to finish, but it was just a six-point game entering the fourth quarter. Down the stretch, however, Centennial’s balanced attack of Isaiah White (22 points). Chad Strothers (13), Tom Brown (10) and Walter Fletcher (10) proved to be just too much.
Centennial outscored Mt. Hebron, which was led by Aaren Smith’s 14 points, by a score of 30-16 in the final eight minutes.
“We were able to get a ton of points in transition and were really moving the ball well,” Centennial coach Chad Hollwedel said.
The Eagles will play on the road at top-seeded City in the regional semifinals on Thursday.
C (17-6): White 22, Strothers 13, Brown 10, Fletcher 10, Wilkin 2, Conley 1.
MH (12-12): A. Smith 14, M. Smith 13, Herlihy 6, Patel 3, Andreas 2.
Half: 19-13 C.