River Hill again flowing with hope


Mount Hebron's upset of Long Reach on Wednesday pumped new life into the River Hill boys basketball team and its county-title aspirations.

"Anything can happen now," said Hawks coach Brian Van Deusen.

Maybe it was renewed hope, and maybe it was just the embarrassing memory of losing a 15-point home-court halftime lead and the game to Atholton earlier in the season, but the Hawks played with a purpose Friday night at Atholton.

The 55-47 victory before a packed gymnasium lifted River Hill (13-3 overall, 9-3 league) into third place ahead of Atholton (12-3, 8-3) and 1 1/2 games behind league-leading Long Reach (14-1, 10-1), a 53-33 victor over Wilde Lake on Friday.

River Hill won its fifth straight and ninth in 10 games. Atholton lost its second straight.

"We came out pumped because of what they did to us the last time," said Hawks point guard Richie Jackson, who led all scorers with 17 points. He also had seven rebounds and was 5-for-6 at the foul line. "They stole our home court last time, but we got them back. Last time we let up. ... This time we did."

This time River Hill led 30-22 at the half. With 3:25 left to play, Atholton cut that lead to 45-42 on a basket by Brent Stewart.

River Hill pushed its lead back to seven points with four straight free throws, but Micah Mbah's three-point shot with 45 seconds left again cut the lead to three, 50-47.

Atholton was unable to score again, while River Hill sank five of its last eight free throws.

The Hawks failed to score a basket in the fourth quarter, but sank 11 free throws to maintain the eight-point advantage they held after three quarters.

"I wouldn't have thought we could have won without a basket in the fourth quarter," Jackson said. "Last time we made a lot of turnovers toward the end, and this time we didn't. We rotated more players and stayed fresher this time. Last time they hurt us on the boards, and this time we boxed out better."

Atholton center Jonas Vaitkas' early foul trouble hurt the Raiders in the second quarter. Vaitkas had to sit out most of the quarter and his absence allowed the Hawks to build a lead.

Matt Glover, River Hill's 6-foot-7 center, made the most of that situation and finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Eight of those points came in the second quarter when the Hawks outscored Atholton 18-9.

Jackson said the Hawks played better defense and fronted Atholton's big men this time. "If you can stop their big men [Mbah and Vaitkas], then you can stop Atholton," he said.

He also said that the Hawks practiced a lot of Atholton's set plays. "After the first quarter, they didn't run any of their set plays," Jackson said.

Atholton coach Jim Albert said: "They doubled down on our big guys, so we ran another set [of plays]. Eleven turnovers in the first half hurt us. We struggled on offense, and they [the Hawks] rebounded well. They were quicker out front and got baskets in transition. And the free-throw line was a killer for us."

River Hill made 21 of 29 free throws while the Raiders were 9-for-12.

River Hill's next game is at home Wednesday against Long Reach.

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