BRANDYWINE - The tears flowed again for River Hill.
The Hawks' bid for their first trip to the Class 3A state semifinals reached its annual conclusion as host Gwynn Park bounced No. 5 River Hill from the East region final with a 65-33 thrashing last night.
The Yellow Jackets (25-2), ranked seventh in the Washington area, became the sixth consecutive Prince George's County team to deny the Hawks a trip to the state semifinals. Gwynn Park has stopped River Hill the past three seasons.
Senior forward Ashley Thomas scored 16 points, had five steals, and grabbed three rebounds for the Hawks (23-2), but no other River Hill player scored more than six points in a contest that turned into a rout in the first quarter.
"I don't know if people were nervous about the hype," Thomas said of playing a Yellow Jackets program that has captured the past two state championships. "We just didn't show up to play."
That was evident in the first quarter when River Hill got a three-point basket from Thomas with more than six minutes left in the period and nothing else.
The Hawks missed 17 of 18 shots in the quarter, and although Gwynn Park missed 15, it owned a 13-3 advantage to begin the second quarter.
Things did not get better, as Gwynn Park opened the period with an 8-0 run and outscored River Hill 19-7 in the quarter. After Thomas connected on another three-point shot to make the score 21-8 with about five minutes left, the Yellow Jackets scored 11 of the final 13 points to enjoy a 32-10 lead.
The Hawks, who have taken four of the past five Howard County titles with an up-tempo style few county opponents can match, crumbled under Gwynn Park's relentless defense.
The Yellow Jackets stole the ball 21 times and forced River Hill into 34 turnovers. Gwynn Park, by comparison, surrendered just 23 turnovers.
It was enough to make Hawks coach Teresa Waters comment after the game about her team's lack of effort.
"This one was one they lost out-and-out," Waters said. "We've been in games when it's the fourth quarter and you can see them plugging away, and it's not that bad. This one, they succumbed early."
Waters' frustration was echoed by some of her players.
"We didn't play like we usually play," River Hill guard LaKeisha Eaddy said. "We played timid and scared. It's frustrating that we didn't bring our best game to the biggest game."