COLLEGE PARK -- After the national anthem before River Hill's Class 3A state semifinal against ninth-ranked Mervo last night, Daniel Hostetler looked into the Comcast Center stands, extended his right leg in the direction of Hawks fans a la Chuck Berry and played air guitar.
"I was just so hyped, so pumped up," said the 6-foot-2 River Hill forward. "And the crowd, man, really got me going."
From there, Hostetler and fellow senior Tommy Brenton proceeded to rock and roll.
Brenton scored 30 points, much of it on 16-for-20 free-throw shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked four shots and had three steals and assists each, and Hostetler scored 20 points, grabbed six rebounds and also had three steals and assists each in a 62-53 victory over the Mustangs (18-8). The 13th-ranked Hawks (22-5) earned their first title-game berth in their inaugural final four appearance.
So efficient were the Hawks that, with four minutes left in the third quarter, the 6-5 Brenton forced Mervo to call its third timeout of the game after his steal and subsequent court-length drive ended with a two-handed dunk for River Hill's biggest lead at 43-23.
"We wanted to take control early," said Brenton, who, with Hostetler, is one of only two senior starters. "We were nervous early, but we calmed down, slowed our offense, got done what we needed to get done."
The Hawks will play in tomorrow's 3 p.m. final against Bethesda-Chevy Chase (22-3), which recorded a 75-62 rout of previously unbeaten Largo (24-1) of Prince George's County. That means Hostetler will play in his second state athletic final in a row.
Hostetler was an All-Metro defensive back-quarterback last fall, and sophomore guards Michael Campanaro and Leron Eaddy (four points) were a running back and linebacker, respectively, when River Hill's football team went a school-record 13-1 and was 3A state runner-up to Friendly of Prince George's in the Hawks' first title-game berth.
"I was comfortable with tonight's big stadium atomosphere, like at M&T; Bank," said Hostetler, whose Hawks led 31-15 at halftime and by 43-29 entering the fourth. "[Guard] Zach Schlereth sparked our offense with a big three-pointer and we kept scoring, playing defense and got an early lead."
The game was tied at 5 when the Hawks scored 12 unanswered points, a run that did not end until Mervo's Trey Martin (23 points) converted a three-pointer to make it 17-8, with 6:40 left in the first half. Mervo's top scorer, Byron Westmoreland, who was averaging 18 points and nine rebounds, had scored only two of his eight points at halftime.
"We were flat, missing [defensive] assignments early," Mervo coach Daryl Wade said. "They controlled the game from the beginning to the end."