Atholton won its fourth Howard County championship in the last five seasons by defeating River Hill yesterday on the Hawks' home floor, 58-42.
The No. 16-ranked Raiders (18-3 overall, 15-2 league) extended their winning streak to eight games, and have won 15 of their last 16 games.
Ryan Lambert led Atholton with 14 points and nine rebounds.
"We always believed we were good enough to win the championship," Lambert said. "Tonight, we had intensity early, then lost it and finally got it back again."
River Hill was an obvious underdog entering the game.
"Atholton is a good team for Howard County and maybe for the playoffs," River Hill coach Tom Schneider said. "All of their starters can shoot. We gave away too much height. We played them hard two times, and lost to them by 16 points two times. So I guess they are 16 points better. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck."
River Hill (8-13, 5-12) hung tough for three quarters, trailing near the end of the third quarter by only 32-31.
But River Hill's patience finally cracked. The Hawks could not hold the ball for the last shot, and Atholton scored quickly off two fast breaks to close out the quarter ahead, 36-31. A three-point shot by River Hill's John Alascio pulled the Hawks to within three early in the fourth quarter, 40-37.
James Penamon (nine points), one of Atholton's outstanding long-range shooters, suddenly caught fire, however, and sank two baskets -- one a three-pointer that put the Raiders ahead with 3: 55 to play, 45-37.
Penamon's spark flamed into a 13-2 run and a 53-39 lead. Brian Boykins (14 points), Jason Allmond and Lambert all scored at least once during that game- breaking run.
"River Hill runs the half-court offense to perfection," Atholton coach Jim Albert said. "We tried to pick up the pace, but they did a good job controlling it. I thought our second group did a great job tonight and sparked us."
That group included Steve Waddy (six points, six rebounds) and Ed Lopez (four points).
Alascio (15 points) and Jay Kreider (13 points) led River Hill offensively. Kreider, the Hawks' leading scorer this season, had an off-night, however, as his shots kept rimming the basket and rolling out.
"We weren't sure at the beginning of the season how well we'd do because we were inexperienced," Albert said. "We started out slowly, but this group has heart and desire and a never-give-up attitude that's as good as any group we've had."
Northwestern 61, No. 6 Lake Clifton 52: Sophomore Derek Pack scored a team-high 17 points and senior Edward Cook added 15 to lead the unranked Wildcats to an upset over the visiting Lakers yesterday.
Northwestern outshot Lake Clifton at the foul line, 28-14, and was able to expand what was a five-point game at the half.
L Senior Rodney Bass led all scorers with 26 for Lake Clifton.
Pub Date: 2/20/98