River Hill's Holly Sandler, right, hugs teammate Jenna… (Jen Rynda, Patuxent Homestead )
Never discount the power of luck.
If anything could have gone wrong for Westlake in the closing seconds of Friday night's Class 3A girls basketball state semifinal game, it did.
And No. 13 River Hill was the beneficiary, capitalizing with a 59-54 victory.
"That was a really, really good team," River Hill coach Teresa Waters said. "We knew they were good, and luck was on our side."
Westlake's game began to crumble in the last 21 seconds, when Alyssa Fort hit a 3-pointer to pull the Wolverines within a point. That was the last positive for the South region champions.
In quick succession, Tejahne Malone picked up her third and fourth fouls. The latter was on a drive to the basket when River Hill's Holly Sandler stood her ground.
"My teammates were playing such good defense, I had the time to get there," said Sandler, who came off the bench to spark River Hill's fourth quarter play.
Fort, Westlake's point guard, then fouled Julia Collins to foul to stop the clock with 3.4 seconds remaining and her team trailing by two. Collins hit one of the free throws to put River Hill up by three.
Westlake had already hit eight 3-pointers in the game, so overtime was a possibility.
The Wolverines called a timeout with 2.1 seconds on the clock, but they were out of timeouts and a bench technical foul was called.
Sandler hit both free throws to seal the victory.
"We didn't know they didn't have any timeouts left," Waters said. "I'm proud of my girls. They worked so hard and never gave up. It was a total team effort."
The Hawks went nine deep and "everyone that played was a contributing factor in some capacity," Waters said.
They will play Aberdeen for the state title Saturday at 8 p.m. at UMBC.
"Both teams are extremely good, so it should be a good game," Waters said. "We're excited about the opportunity to be on the court on Saturday night."
W—Brown 23, Fort 14, Malone 11, Gleaton 6. FT: 10-22.
RH —Jackson 16, Sandler 9, Rowe 8, Julia Collins 8, Sterling 8, Jenna Collins 6, Arensmeier 4. FT: 16-26.
Half: W, 29-26.