River Hill trailed by two and had yet to hold a lead at any point during the first half against Reservoir on Friday night, yet Hawks’ coach Matt Graves wasn’t panicking.
In fact, he said he felt like the game was exactly where he wanted it.
“I felt like being down two at that point was a victory for us because we hadn’t really played well and were still right there,” said Graves, whose team was down 24-22 at the break. “I knew it was going to be an emotional game with the huge crowd and there were going to be some bad shots and turnovers to start, but it was going to come down to how we could execute once the game settled down. And we had started chipping away in the second quarter, closing out possessions defensively ... the tide was shifting.”
Riding the momentum from a 13-5 run to close the first half, River Hill outscored Reservoir by 12 points in the third quarter to build a lead it never lost the rest of the way en route to a 54-42 victory.
The Hawks, which were led by a season-high 23 points from Jaden Martin, improved to 8-0 in games that count toward the county championship this winter. With three county contests left, River Hill (14-5 overall) has a two-game lead on the field.
After going 4-15 in league play a season ago, Martin says the team has taken an ‘Us against the World,’ mentality this winter.
“It took going into this game knowing that it had to be ‘We are playing for us 12.’ That’s our motto on the season and that’s who we’ve got to play for,” Martin said. “It wasn’t about the crowd, it wasn’t about the coaches … it was playing for our [fellow] man in the Carolina Blue.”
Martin certainly did his part, scoring on a mix of layups and mid-range jumpers. He had seven of the team’s points during the second-quarter push and then had 10 more during the decisive third quarter.
Jacob Krause (12 points) and Luke Champion (11) also came through with huge baskets in helping deliver the statement win.
On the other side, Reservoir (5-2, 13-4) saw its five-game winning streak snapped. Kevin Miller led the way with 10 points, but no other Gators’ player finished with more than six.
Early on, Reservoir was in complete control on the way to a 14-7 lead by the end of the first quarter. Isaac Gunther and Simi Ajimatanrareje each hit big 3-pointers and Miller beat the buzzer with a layup to give the Gators their largest lead up until that point.
The Reservoir lead grew to 10 shortly after that, following a foul shot by Judge Payne (6 points) early in the second quarter.
But River Hill hung around thanks to Martin heating up and some timely baskets from Champion and Krause. Then, after closing its deficit to close the half, Krause finally gave the Hawks their first lead of the game with a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter to make it 31-28.
That basket by Krause was part of a 16-4 run to close the period that gave River Hill its first double-digit lead of the night.
Reservoir cut its deficit to five on two occasions but never managed to get any closer during the fourth quarter. Overall, the Gators made just seven field goals in the second half.
“I just felt like when the game got close, we kind of went away and they got hungry. They finally got the lead and then it kept going into a [16-4] run,” Reservoir coach Mike Coughlan said. “We have to learn to respond to those kind of things, those kinds of situations where things get tough, and tonight we just didn’t have an answer.”
For River Hill, the team now controls its destiny as it chases the program’s first county championship since 2002.
“I think they wanted to prove tonight what they are made of, not only to themselves but to the public eye,” Graves said. “We didn’t start off the year very well, and that’s what we talked about in the pregame, this was our chance to show how far we’ve come.
“There was no nerves coming into tonight, it was more anticipation. They were hungry.”
River Hill 54, Reservoir 42
RH (8-0, 14-5): Martin 23, Krause 12, Champion 11, Okojie 4, Clark 2, Krakat 2.
Re (5-2, 13-4): Miller 10, Payne 6, Ajimatanrareje 6, Ricketts 5, Walker 5, Archampong 3, Gunther 3, Carey 2, Okolo 2.
Half: 24-22 Re.
Wilde Lake 55, Centennial 51
In a battle to stay within striking distance in the race for a county title, the Wildecats established an early lead and maintained it the majority of the way en route to the victory.
Trea Keys scored a game-high 18 points in the win, including eight of his team’s 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Kaleb Addisu scored 14 points to lead Centennial in the loss.
WL (5-2, 10-7): Keys 18, Bullett 9, Joseph 7, VanTassell 7, David 5, Greene 5, Barnes 4.
C (4-3, 12-6): Addisu 14, White 10, Williams 10, Sedlacko 6, Fant 4, Taylor 3, Ford 2, Hohmann 2.
Half: 23-20 WL.
Glenelg 62, Howard 50
The Gladiators bounced back after a loss on Wednesday to earn a double-digit victory over the Lions. Garrett Mills (season-high 13 points) and Brent Wade (13) each had standout efforts for Glenelg in the win.
After trailing early, the Gladiators regrouped to outscore Howard 17-8 in the second quarter and take a lead it never lost in the second half.
G (3-5, 12-6): Mills 13, Wade 13, Powell 11, Currie 9, Davis 6, Piwowarski 5, Koele 4, Walsh 1.
Ho (2-5, 5-13): Walker 15, Cowan 10, Javier 10, Perkins-Cross 7, Scaife 4, Davis 2, Roberson 2.
Atholton 66, Marriotts Ridge 57
The Raiders snapped a three-game losing skid, as four players — Jacob Waterworth (17 points), Jasen Parkins (13), Skyler Rankin (13) and Sean Washington (12) — scored in double figures.
A (3-4, 6-11): Waterworth 17, J. Parkins 13, Rankin 13, Washington 12, Perlin 5, Silverstein 2, Dobson 2, C. Parkins 2.
MR (3-4, 7-11): Demiral 13, Held 13, Brennan 9, Lee 6, Geiger 6, Ingersoll 5, Turner 3, Davis 2.
Half: 34-32 A.
Long Reach 54, Oakland Mills 41
In a low-scoring affair, Tre Morgan scored a game-high 19 points to lead the way to a victory that snapped a three-game losing streak for the Lightning.
Long Reach led the entire way, opening up a 15-10 lead after the opening quarter and extending that cushion up to 37-22 by the end of the third.
Jordan Hopkins led Oakland Mills in the loss with 11 points.
LR (2-5, 7-11): Morgan 19, Ekop 9, Young 6, Chad Brown 6, Willis 4, Zeleznik 3, Chan Brown 2, Dix 2, Shupe 2, Thompson 1.
OM (2-5, 5-12): Hopkins 11, Wheelock 7, Rondon 6, Eaton 5, Simpson 4, Burgess 4, Estep 2, Hairston 1, McFadden 1.
Half: 25-17 LR.
Glenelg Country 83, IDEA 37
In a non-conference contest, the Dragons raced out to a 29-8 lead after the first quarter and never looked back. Isaiah Burnett scored a team-high 18 points, but Chase Paar (16 points), Anthony Longpre (12) and Caidon Owen (11) finished in double figures as well.
Glenelg Country returns to action with another non-league game against Poly on Saturday night.
GC (7-6, 16-6): Burnett 18, Paar 16, Longpre 12, Owen 11, Wilson 8, Fanning 6, Nedurmalli 5, Hornatto 3, Pierre-Louis 2.
IDEA: Leach 12, Ojulari 9, Hines 7, Wright 4, Joyner 3, Coleman 2.
Half: 44-19 GC.
Annapolis Area Christian 68, Chapelgate 65
AAC: Rawlings 14, Joseph 13, Johnson 13, Williams 11, Celsif 8, Borden 5, Banks 2, Heckert 2.
CCA (3-7, 10-16): McEachin 18, Murphy 16, Dickerson 9, McCray 7, Morant 6, Tringali 3, Wise 2.
Half: 30-28 CCA.