If the River Hill girls basketball team thought it could waltz into the Class 3A East regional final, Severna Park proved to be an unwilling dance partner.
The No. 5 Hawks survived a scare as senior guard Laura Hostetler scored 10 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter to lift host River Hill to a 60-56 victory over the No. 10 Falcons in a region semifinal in Clarksville last night.
The top-seeded Hawks (21-3), who reached their third regional championship game in the past four seasons, will play host to No. 2 seed Gwynn Park (22-1) tomorrow at 7 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets - ranked No. 2 by The Washington Post - defeated No. 8 Mount Hebron, 43-38, in the other semifinal.
Last night was the second time in as many years that Severna Park's season ended in a regional semifinal.
But the Falcons (19-5) - Anne Arundel County co-champions with No. 3 Arundel - made River Hill sweat out the win and even owned a 30-28 halftime lead against the Howard County titlists.
"They played a great game," Hostetler said of Severna Park. "All 32 minutes; they stuck with us the whole time."
Neither team could shake the other until junior guard Ashley Thomas' jumper with less than four minutes left in the game gave the Hawks a 54-45 advantage.
But back-to-back three-pointers by junior guard Dominique Jennings (a game-high 19 points) capped an 11-4 Falcons run that narrowed the gap to two points with 50.4 seconds left.
After River Hill sophomore center Brittany Gordon missed the first shot in a one-and-one with 36.5 seconds left, Severna Park senior guard Lauren Hall turned the ball over by dribbling it off her leg and out of bounds.
But the Hawks promptly turned over the ball on the ensuing possession, and Hall was fouled by senior forward Allison Kupec with 11.1 seconds left.
Hall (10 points, five steals, three rebounds) missed the first shot in the one-and-one, and Hostetler - fouled after grabbing the rebound - made two free throws to complete the scoring.
Neither team protected the ball particularly well - River Hill committed 27 turnovers and the Falcons had 21 - but the Hawks owned a 37-26 rebounding advantage and a 15-6 lead at the offensive end.
Hostetler finished with four rebounds and three assists, and senior forward Megan Buescher collected 14 points and 10 rebounds for River Hill.
Still, Severna Park coach Bill Giblin was pleased with his team's effort.
"We did what nobody thought we could do: we got them out of their press," Giblin said. "We made them go to a zone, and we hit some big shots."