Returning to play after a several-week pause, the energy between Atholton and River Hill boys basketball was palpable in the gym.
Wednesday night’s game marked the first game in about a month for Atholton, and River Hill’s first of the season. After a defensive-oriented opening quarter, the Raiders raced past the Hawks in the second, remaining unbeaten with a 55-42 victory.
The Raiders (4-0, 2-0) outscored the Hawks 25-3 in the second quarter and maintained a double-digit lead the remainder of the way.
Much of that offensive success was a byproduct of the Raiders’ aggressiveness, getting the Hawks (0-1, 0-1) in foul trouble and making them pay. Atholton entered the bonus midway through the second quarter and finished 15 of 21 from the line in the first half.
The Raiders defense suffocated the Hawks, holding them without a field goal in the decisive second quarter. Their zone defense was challenging for the Hawks to find creases both on the perimeter and the interior. The Hawks also lost senior forward Tishe Saliu to injury during that quarter, one of their best offensive threats in the paint.
“I thought we responded well, a slow start for us,” Atholton coach Jared Albert said. “We talked about rebounding the basketball, River Hill is a hell of a team and they’re extremely long. They fed off each other and I think that’s the most important thing. That’s how we build our team defense off of that. It was just nice to us respond to a slow start and build that lead.”
Atholton built a 34-13 halftime lead, seemingly taking control of the game. However, the Hawks responded in the third quarter as senior guard Levi Lawal scored nine of his team-high 16 points during the frame.
“We built some rhythm, we understood how to score,” River Hill coach Matt Graves said. “We knew where our scoring areas were, we made stops on defense and we grabbed some rebounds. In a game like that, it’s all about making stops and putting together some offensive shots. That’s where Levi really helped us.”
Atholton senior guard Ayyub Rabb delivered much-needed baskets to quell the Hawks’ momentum. Rabb tallied nine of his game-high 17 points during the quarter, energizing the home crowd. His baskets kept the lead in double digits, displaying his full offensive repertoire.
“My mid-range came and I just got out of my head,” Raab said. “I just started playing, my team told me to lock in. So, I just locked in with them and we played together. I was happy for that.”
River Hill continued to battle scoring in the opening four points of the fourth quarter, trimming Atholton’s lead to 11. But the Hawks lost their top scoring threat when Lawal fouled out with 4:45 remaining. Shortly after, Raider senior guard Sean Boulle drilled a 3-pointer, diminishing the Hawks’ comeback hopes as time dwindled down.