The River Hill girls basketball team received an infusion from an unlikely source last night: its bench.
The Hawks' reserves resuscitated the sometimes struggling starters with a combined 19 points, nine rebounds and seven steals to lead No. 9 River Hill to a 52-43 victory over No. 12 Centennial.
The victory vaulted River Hill past the Eagles into sole possession of second place in the Howard County league. The Hawks (13-6, 12-3) trail first-place Mount Hebron (16-3, 13-2) by one game.
The Vikings, who won their seventh straight last night by 60-32 over Atholton, will host River Hill on Thursday at 5. Centennial (13-5, 11-3) dropped into third place.
Last night, junior guard Meredith Brooks had 10 points, four steals and three rebounds off the bench to ignite the Hawks. Junior forward Kristina Joyner added eight points and four rebounds in limited minutes.
"I like being the sixth man, because you get to see what's going on from the bench, what the tempo of the game is, and it gets me really fired up," Brooks said. "You see who is playing well on their team, so you can work on stopping them."
The other factor that saved River Hill was hustle. The Hawks held Centennial to 34 percent shooting (13 for 38) from the field, created 28 turnovers -- 27 in the first three quarters -- and out-rebounded Centennial 40-28.
"The defense is what's gotten us to where we are now," said River Hill coach Teresa Waters, whose team won its eighth straight. "We struggled offensively, but as long as you play good defense, you're always in the game. We're excited that we won despite struggling offensively."
Among the starters, junior forward Megan Buescher had a team-high 11 points, eight rebounds and four steals. Junior forward Allison Kupec added eight points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots.
Senior guard Jasmine Hammond had a game-high 12 points, seven rebounds and five steals for Centennial, but she was held to just one point after halftime.
"Jasmine Hammond is really quick, but if you force her to her left, she doesn't have anything," Brooks said. "That's the case with a lot of their players. I think us causing them to go left was the key to the game."
Centennial hit just four shots in the first half, but still trailed by only 24-20 at halftime thanks to 12-for-15 free-throw shooting. River Hill broke the game open with a 9-2 run to conclude the third quarter that gave the Hawks a 38-29 lead. Centennial came no closer than six thereafter.
"Meredith Brooks came off the bench and gave them a real spark," Centennial coach Ed Trout said. "As did their entire bench."