College Park -- Tommy Brenton said that every time he made a free throw, he thought to himself, "If I keep making them, we're going to win a state title."
River Hill's Brenton was right, as his state-record, 19-for-20 performance from the line led the Hawks to the Class 3A state title over Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 60-51, at Comcast Center yesterday.
Every time B-CC made a run in the second half, it seemed as if Brenton was back on the line to cut it short.
It was River Hill's first state crown in its first appearance in the states and Howard County's second straight after Long Reach won last year's 3A final, and the county's seventh overall.
Brenton, who had game highs of 28 points and 10 rebounds, made his first 17 foul shots before missing one, but made the back end of two to give the No. 13 Hawks (23-5) a 58-51 lead with 42 seconds left.
The 6-foot-4 senior made his last two to break the record of 17 in a game set by Catonsville's Art Monroe in the 1983 state tournament.
"As I kept making them, it was building confidence and we were getting closer to that state championship," said Brenton, who had 30 points in the Hawks'semifinal victory over Mervo on Thursday, going 16-for-20 from the line that night, giving him a 35-for-40 mark for free throws and 58 total points in two games.
"I thought Thursday would end up being the best game of my career, but ... "
Brenton came into yesterday's game against the Barons (22-4) as the only Hawk averaging in double figures in scoring at 21.7 points per game.
The fact that sophomore Michael Campanaro had 12 points and senior Dan Hostelter had 11 helped the Hawks greatly as they won with their Princeton-style offense of backdoor cuts and layups.
Campanaro and Hostetler were key members of the school's football team that played in the 3A final at M&T; Bank Stadium in December.
"It was also important that we were shorter than they they are and that we clog the lanes," said coach Matt Graves. "We outrebounded them [30-28] and that was key. We knew we were going up against a bunch of good athletes."
Two of those athletes were Austin Cooley, who scored 16 points, and Nate Koenig, who had 14 for the Barons. It was B-CC's ninth final, but seventh final loss. The Barons won state titles in 1959 and 1984.
"It feels good to come up big in this one and maybe we could have used Tommy as a wide-out in football," said Campanaro.
Brenton scored 13 of his points in the last nine minutes of the first half as the Hawks took a 27-20 lead into the break. Brenton scored his first-half points in succession, putting on a one-man show that heralded what was to come.
"Twenty years from now, I can come back to our gym and look up at the wall and see the championship banner and say I helped us get that," said Brenton.