River Hill toes line, stops Oakland Mills

12 of 15 on free throws in last quarter completes rally from 11 down, 67-57

Boys basketball

High Schools

January 27, 2002|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

When exams week ended on Friday, River Hill was crossing its fingers that the time off with just one practice wouldn't be a testing ground for failure in its return to boys basketball competition.

The Hawks were flying high after knocking off then county-leading Long Reach on Dec. 18, a win that gained them a share of first place. They hoped to carry that momentum into yesterday's game against always dangerous Oakland Mills.

Despite hitting a snag through the first three quarters, the Hawks recovered in time to gain a 67-57 victory in a game that was undecided until the final minute.

Two constants saved the Hawks.

River Hill (11-4 overall, 8-3 league) again showed clutch free-throw shooting by sinking 12 of 15 in the fourth quarter. And 6-foot-10 center Kevin Steenberge again set the pace for River Hill: 28 points, 17 rebounds, four blocked shots. He was especially dominant on the boards in the last quarter.

Equally important for River Hill, however, was the defense of Ivan Abrams and Matt Hostetler against Oakland Mills' chief offensive threats - Varnaz Nicholson (nine points) and Andre Brooks (nine points).

Abrams (13 points, six assists) also hit four of four free throws in the final 28 seconds.

Drubbed Dec. 12 by River Hill (67-43), the Scorpions (6-9, 5-6) didn't think they were 24 points worse than the Hawks.

And they proved that. The Scorpions led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter and were up three to start the fourth.

Brooks controlled the boards through three quarters until Steenberge wore him down. He also defended Steenberge well, holding him to 10 first-half points.

"Brooks got a body on him and made Kevin work for everything," said River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen. "Oakland Mills came ready to play, and I'm proud my kids finished strong in the fourth quarter."

Oakland Mills coach Dave Appleby also praised Brooks. "This was his best game defensively. Our team played very well, and did everything it needed to do to win until a couple of things just went against us at the end," Appleby said.

He was talking about a loose ball the Scorpions failed to grab, a couple of charging fouls against them and a couple of missed layups that might have drawn foul calls.

Sophomore C. J. King surprised River Hill with his long-range shooting (four three-pointers in the first half among his team-high 16 points). Oakland Mills sank eight threes altogether.

"We didn't know King, so we played off him a little," Steenberge said. "In the second half, we switched from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone and that shut them down. Richie [Jackson] and Wes [McCoy] showed a lot of poise handling their pressure defense."

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