Vaitkus sends Atholton past River Hill, 67-62

Game-high 21 points, key plays late fuel win

Boys basketball

High Schools

December 13, 2003|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Atholton forward/center Jonas Vaitkus truly showed his versatility in the final minutes of last night's game against River Hill.

The 6-foot-4 senior blocked a possible game-tying shot, got an assist on a clutch basket, grabbed a key rebound and added an insurance free throw. Vaitkus finished with 21 points and was an important reason Atholton rallied for a 67-62 victory over visiting River Hill in a Howard County game.

Vaitkus repeatedly made big plays at both ends of the court. He's officially the Atholton center and finished with seven rebounds, but Vaitkus often comes out to handle the ball and create trouble for opposing defenses.

"His motor runs 100 miles per hour from the beginning," Atholton coach Jim Albert said. "He's just [always] ready to play."

Vaitkus said he wanted to carry the load in this game if his team needed it.

"I was just completely ready," Vaitkus said. "The shots just fell for me today. We felt we had control of the game for stretches, and we felt we could pull it out."

Vaitkus carried Atholton (3-0, 3-0) for long stretches in a game filled with wild spurts. The Raiders used an 11-2 second-quarter run to take a 39-31 halftime lead. But River Hill (2-1, 2-1) extended its defensive pressure in the third quarter, created several turnovers and bounced back with a 15-2 run to take a 46-43 lead during the period.

The teams traded fourth-quarter spurts with Atholton getting the final - and most important - run by scoring 11 of the game's final 13 points. River Hill didn't score a basket in the final 3:14 while missing all five of its shots.

Vaitkus played a big role in that stretch. Matt Winger's three-point shot cut the River Hill lead to 60-59 with 2:43 left before Vaitkus blocked a Ben Nowak shot on the following possession.

The Raiders then ran time off the clock before Vaitkus made a perfect back-door pass to Brandon Boy (19 points), whose layup and eventual three-point play gave the Raiders the lead for good at 62-60 with 1:56 left.

Vaitkus then got the rebound after a River Hill miss nine seconds later. Craig Sauers added two clutch free throws with 17 seconds left, and Vaitkus made one more two seconds later for the final points.

Richie Jackson (16 points), Rogers Barnes (15 points) and Nowak (13 points) sparked the River Hill second-half rallies. Jackson and Barnes combined for seven second-half steals that led to 10 Hawk points. River Hill repeatedly disrupted the Atholton offense in the third quarter, but the Raiders settled the pace on offense in the final period.

"They ran their offense a little better," River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said. "They made the plays at the end. We got a little too much one-on-one and got out of our offense [at times]."

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