LARGO - So close.
"It was there," said River Hill girls basketball coach Teresa Waters. "But it slipped away."
The Hawks, the Baltimore area's top-ranked girls basketball team, gave everything they had last night against Riverdale Baptist, the Washington area's No. 1 team, before losing, 50-48, in a semifinal game of the IAABO Invitational Christmas Tournament at Prince George's Community College.
River Hill (5-1) took a 16-15 lead with six minutes left in the second quarter and held it until Riverdale Baptist's Ashley Whisonant made a driving layup to give the Crusaders a 47-46 lead with 1:34 left in the game.
The Hawks scored their only basket of the final four minutes at the buzzer.
"We played good, but we should have won," said River Hill senior forward Greeba Outen Barlow, who had a team-high 13 points, 10 in the first half. "We let it slip out of our hands. We had them. We had them.
"It's disappointing to me because we could have beaten them. Everybody else thinks we proved a point, but you're not going to prove a point until you win."
River Hill had a shorter lineup, but its pressure defense and aggressiveness on the boards gave nationally ranked Riverdale Baptist (10-1) all it could handle.
Sophomore Fana Walcott, who wore knee pads, and her senior sister, Rashida, another guard, created many turnovers with their tenacious play.
But in the end, Riverdale Baptist, which starts three Division I signees who are 6 feet 1, 6-2 and 6-3, won the battle on the boards.
"Down the wire it paid off for them," Waters said.
Riverdale Baptist's Tiffany Stansbury, a 6-3 forward headed to Delaware State, played well down the stretch and finished with a team-high 16 points. Whisonant added 12 points for the Crusaders, including eight in the final period.
Riverdale Baptist will defend its tournament title today at 8 p.m. against Elizabeth Seton, the Washington area's third-ranked team, which beat Oxon Hill, 65-53, in the other semifinal.
River Hill led 24-19 at halftime, but Outen Barlow picked up three fouls in the second quarter - the last one with 31 seconds left - and returned midway through the third period.
The Hawks' 6-2 Keiko Miller-Tate (four points) picked up her fourth foul with 3:28 left in the third period. River Hill's hard play and Riverdale Baptist's turnovers allowed the Hawks to take a 35-34 lead into the final period.
Rashida Walcott, who scored all of her six points in the final period, gave the Hawks a 44-38 lead with 5:15 to play. But River Hill made only two of its final 13 shots.
"We played hard," said Waters, whose team will play a consolation game against Oxon Hill today at 6 p.m. "I'm not going to say the better team won because I think we're just as good as they are. We represented the Baltimore area well. We held our own."