Nick Marshall talks after the Hawks' 58-53 home win on Feb. 15.

A near flawless first half gave way to a rough third quarter for River Hill boys basketball, but in the end the Hawks made enough buckets within their half-court offense to earn a 58-53 home win over No. 15 Oakland Mills on Friday night and avenge their one-point defeat to the Scorpions two months earlier.

After dropping three of its first four county games, River Hill (10-5 Howard County, 15-6 overall) is now in position to secure the No. 1 seed in the 2A South, Section I playoffs. The Hawks, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake are all in contention to earn a first-round bye entering the final week of the regular season.

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“A big spark is how we lost our first [county] game, 61-56 in overtime against Wilde Lake. That really gave us momentum” said Hawks sophomore Nick Marshall, who finished with 13 points. “Losing to Hammond, we were able to come back and get revenge on them. Same with Oakland Mills, losing by one point at the end.

Centennial boys basketball edges Howard after blowing double-digit lead

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“We just wanted to get revenge and make a statement,” Marshall added. “Everyone is talking about how River Hill is not top, so we just want to show them, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Playing without second-leading scorer Ryan Marshall, who injured his ankle on Thursday night against Glenelg, his brother, Nick, and Ming Yu paced River Hill with 13 points apiece, while Elijah Feeney (11 points) came up big with three 3-pointers and Oj Okojie (10 points) cleaned up the offensive glass. Okojie also served as an invaluable rim protector against an Oakland Mills team that thrives on getting to the basket. He blocked seven shots and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Hawks, who will enter their regular season finale with Mt. Hebron on Feb. 22 with five consecutive wins.

For Oakland Mills (11-4, 15-5), the loss snaps its five-game winning streak. Daeshawn Eaton (14 points), Ke’von Simpson (12 points) and Truth Norton (11 points) were the team’s leading scorers and were instrumental in helping the Scorpions’ erase their 14-point deficit at intermission.

Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne declined to comment after the loss.

River Hill built its double-digit halftime lead by controlling the tempo “perfectly” according to coach Matt Graves. Its offense was slow and methodical and often ended in open shots from behind the arc, and the Hawks capitalized to the tune of six 3-pointers over the opening two quarters.

Their defense, meanwhile, made Oakland Mills’ offense lethargic and predictable. And when the Scorpions decided not to settle for perimeter shots, the Hawks collapsed on Eaton when he drove through the lane and had the luxury of having Okojie in the paint to challenge his shot. Eaton, the reigning county scoring champion, scored just five points as the Scorpions entered halftime down, 30-16.

“We dictated what we wanted to do offensively and defensively,” Graves said. “I know Oakland Mills is athletic as they are and playing them for as many years as I’ve played them, I knew they were going to bring everything with the pressure in the second half, and we dealt with it, but we didn’t deal with it. They made a great run.”

Oakland Mills’ roaring comeback stemmed from full-court pressure and a fast-paced offensive approach, regardless of if River Hill made a shot, missed it or committed a turnover on the other end. The Scorpions began creating opportunities before the Hawks could settle into their zone, and suddenly it was Browne’s team that had seized momentum. With Eaton and Norton leading the way, the Scorpions outscored the Hawks, 19-8, in the third quarter to pull within one.

But in the fourth quarter River Hill’s efficient offense returned, resulting in what Graves called rhythm shots that his players work on and make in practice. Only this time, their conversions meant much more. They helped the Hawks pull out a victory that firmly established them as one of the favorites in the upcoming 2A South playoffs.

“When we play fast, bad things happen,” Graves said. “When we slow it down, we seem to get more ingrained in what we’re doing offensively, and we know what our options are to score.”

River Hill (10-5 county, 15-6 overall) — 58, Oakland Mills (11-4, 15-5) — 53

RH — Nick Marshall 13, Yu 13, Feeney 11, Okojie 10, O’Brien 5, Graves 2, James 2, Uecker 2.

OM — Eaton 14, Simpson 12, Norton 11, Riggs 7, Evans 4, Eiland 3, Hopkins 2.

Halftime: 30-16, RH

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Other scores:

Glenelg (3-10, 6-11) — 68, Howard (1-12, 5-14) — 54

G — Piwowarski 21, Dick 15, Owens 9, Soltis 4, Pearcy 4, Koele 3, Trawick 3, Walsh 3, Dello Russo 3, Dry 2, Onwumbiko 1.

.Ho — Harris 33, Hendricks 9, Simmons 8, Colbert 4.

Halftime: 28-23, G

Long Reach (6-12) — 66, South Carroll — 60

LR — Johnson 21, Haberern 12, Modeste 9, Olivis 7, R. Martin 6, Raymond 4, Addo 4, C. Martin 2, Wyche 1.

Halftime: 40-19, LR

Glenelg Country (10-8 MIAA A, 18-9) — 63, Gilman — 54

GCS — Yoka-Bratsz 18, Chase Paar 14, Robinson 12, Braithwaite 12, Charles 5,

Halftime: 28-26, Gilman

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