Senior forward Dylan Daniels talks about the Hawks’ 54-52 win Dec. 8. (Kyle Stackpole / Baltimore Sun Media Group)
HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Whenever River Hill boys basketball opened the door for Wilde Lake to steal a road win Friday night, the Hawks make a play to preserve their late-game lead.
With under a minute to play, senior Jaden Martin made a steal to keep River Hill ahead, 54-52. And after the referee called Martin for a charge seconds later, the Hawks responded by forcing another turnover.
Even then, the game remained in doubt. The Hawks proceeded to miss the first of two free throws, secured the offensive rebound and again missed the front end of the 1-and-1. Wilde Lake grabbed the defensive board, putting itself in position to tie the game or take the lead in the final moments.
But on the last possession, the Hawks forced standout guard Trea Keys to give up the ball, and senior Dylan Daniels then swatted the right-corner jumper to preserve a 54-52 win in both teams’ county opener.
“We tried to break away and hide, but we couldn’t,” coach Matt Graves said. “They came back, made some big shots. We made some bad turnovers. It became a free throw shooting contest, couldn’t make free throws. They get the last shot.
“It feels like every time we play them, it comes down to one or two shots.”
Martin, a first-team All-County selection last season, led all players with 16 points, while Daniels and senior Jacob Krause also scored in double digits for River Hill (1-0 county, 2-0 overall). The Hawks also held junior Trea Keys, the Howard County Co-Player of the Year last season, to three points in the second half and 11 points overall. Senior PJ Joseph and junior Marc Marshall paced the Wildecats (0-1, 0-2) with 12 points apiece.
This marks the third time in four meetings River Hill has held Keys, the league’s top scorer a year ago at more than 18 points per game, to 11 points.
“The main focal point was just to guard Trea Keys,” Daniels said. “We did that, and we won.”
On the other end, a balanced offensive effort helped the Hawks maintain the lead from the opening tip. Wilde Lake started the game in a zone, which they exploited with three first-quarter 3-pointers to surge in front. They maintained that advantage behind Martin, who did most of his damage from the middle of the zone, and Daniels’ ability to score off offensive rebounds.
River Hill used a fast third-quarter start to open up a 10-point lead, and the game stayed between six and eight points for the remainder of the period.
And on the first Hawks possession of the third quarter, senior Josh Mann and OJ Okojie brought the home crowd to its feet. After a steal, Mann had a wide open layup but slowed down as he approached the hoop. Instead of shooting, he lofted an alley-oop pass off the backboard that Okojie threw down, extended the lead to nine.
However, Wilde Lake responded without needing Keys to score. There was a drive by Joseph, a jumper from senior George Hunter and a Gerald Van Tassel layup. Moments later, Marshall’s basket capped a 9-2 run, cutting the Hawks lead to just two.
The Wildecats couldn’t complete the comeback — they only got off one shot attempt on their final three possessions — but coach Deon Wingfield praised his team’s resilience against a quality opponent in a noisy environment.
“I’m so proud of my guys for fighting,” Wingfield said. “They could have easily folded, and they continued to fight. And the only thing we could ask for is a chance with a winning shot at the end of the game.”
River Hill (1-0 county, 2-0 overall) — 54, Wilde Lake (0-1, 0-2) — 52
RH — Martin 16, Daniels 15, Krause 11, McKenna 4, Okojie 3, Mann 3, Champion 2.
WL — Joseph 12, Marshall 12, Keys 11, Hunter 6, Williams 6, Van Tassel 3, Greene.