No. 5 River Hill falls to Centennial, 53-41

Eagles drop a top-5 team for second time in month

Girls basketball

High schools

January 05, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Centennial's girls basketball team was not shy about its mission last night against visiting River Hill.

The No. 15 Eagles - who had not beaten the No. 5 Hawks in four years - simply set out to rearrange the landscape of Howard County basketball one elbow at a time.

And with the help of some timely three-pointers, Centennial did just that, knocking off River Hill, 53-41. It was the Hawks' second straight county loss, and the second win in less than a month for Eagles over a top-five opponent.

"We knew we had to be physical, and we weren't in the first half," said Eagles forward Ashley Hall, who scored 18 points on four three-pointers and had six rebounds. "We got a little mad at halftime and stopped looking for calls. We just got physical and played."

Even still, the first half for the Eagles wasn't bad, either. Centennial (7-2 overall, 5-1 county) made its open shots, something River Hill struggled with. In the first half, Hall, Allie Gugliotti and Claire Anderson all knocked down three-pointers during a five-minute stretch, and it helped the Eagles take an 11-point lead early in the second quarter.

"When they sagged back into their zone, we really hit some big three-pointers," said Centennial coach Ed Trout. "That's a big key to this team, our outside shooting. We can make it when we get open looks."

River Hill (5-5, 3-2), which earlier this season had its 39-game county winning streak broken, quietly pulled to within 25-22 at halftime thanks to consecutive three-pointers by Laura Hostetler and Ali Kupec, but it was clear that the Hawks were fighting an uphill battle much of the night. River Hill forced Centennial into 21 turnovers, but struggled to capitalize on the offensive end because of missed layups and shaky passing.

"We're still searching for our identity I think," said River Hill coach Teresa Waters. "We're not sure who is going to lead us or who is going to get points for us. Hopefully we'll figure it out, because we're not clicking right now."

Impressively, Centennial got even better as the game went on, and the upset became reality. Even a technical foul by Trout in the third quarter didn't alter the Eagles' focus. "We could have let it slip away, but we hung in there," Trout said. "We've really been a fourth-quarter team all year. If it's close, I know we've got a real shot."

Senior point guard Jasmine Hammond (17 points, six rebounds) remembered the joy that came with beating River Hill her freshman year, and wanted to ensure her teammates got that same opportunity. Though Centennial scored only four second-half field goals, Hammond wove her way through the Hawks' press, forcing River Hill to foul to keep up.

From there, it was all free throws. The Eagles pulled away by going 16 of 20 from the line, including 10-for-10 by Hammond. Hostetler finished with 13 points and Ashley Thomas added 10 as the only River Hill players in double figures.

"I think we definitely showed we belong among the elite teams in the county," Hammond said. "To beat River Hill my senior year feels pretty special."

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