WALDORF – Standing in a hallway outside his team’s locker room, St. Charles High’s girls basketball coach Darrelle Smith offered a succinct summary of his team’s game against River Hill in Friday night’s Class 3A state quarterfinal.
“A game of runs is basically what they should call this,” he said. “It was a game of runs.”
With St. Charles (23-3 overall) in front by 15 with roughly three minutes left in the third quarter, it looked like the Hawks’ season would come to a quiet end. But the visitors from Howard Cunty mounted one last run that eventually saw them claim a one-point lead with 1 minute and 8 seconds left to play. But the host Spartans were able to score the game’s final four points to defeat River Hill 51-48, ending the Hawks’ season in the state quarterfinals.
“You can’t dig a hole and always expect to get back out,” River Hill coach Teresa Waters said. “This was one of those days when we didn’t get out.”
River Hill (18-7), seeded sixth among the 3A quarterfinalists, led the third-seeded Spartans 18-17 after a quarter. But the hosts outscored the Hawks 15-5 in the second period to take a 32-23 lead into the half. St. Charles then opened the second half on an 8-2 run, pushing its lead to 40-25 on Jadyn Forbes’ bucket with 3:32 remaining in the third.
But the Hawks refused to go quietly. Following a timeout, Camille Nesmith led a rally that saw the visitors close to within 40-34. Nesmith scored six points during the nine-point run, while Taylor Shane also knocked down a three-pointer.
The surge continued throughout the fourth quarter, with Dylan Watson’s free throws with 1:08 remaining putting the Hawks in front, 48-47, for the first time since early in the second.
It was not to be, however. Mia Johnson converted a pair from the line with 24.8 seconds remaining to put St. Charles in front to stay. Amani Taylor added two more from the stripe with 7.6 seconds left to extend the lead to three and the Hawks were not able to make a game-tying three in the final seconds to send the game to overtime.
“I think we really pulled it together at the end,” said River Hill senior Donna Cazeau. “Those last free throws really got us.”
Nesmith led all scorers with 15 points, while Isabela Bundy-Garcia and Taylor Shane each contributed nine to the River Hill cause. But the Hawks struggled with foul trouble, as well as converting from the floor.
“When you have 28 turnovers. It’s very hard to win a game, especially against a team with good athletes that was shooting well,” Watson said. “We just couldn’t get in the flow…We fought back and the momentum was changing, but if you’re not making shots then you get stops. We didn’t do that. You have to value possessions, and we didn’t do that, either.”
Johnson and Taylor each scored 14 point to pace St. Charles, which advances to the state semifinal round for the first time in its program history. The Spartans will play Howard on Tuesday night.
While the season ended short of where she may have liked, Cazeau looked at the season as a rousing success.
“It was an absolutely great season,” she said. “The team this year was amazing. All the girls have great personalities. We put our all on the court, I think, and were regional champs this year which doesn’t always happen. All in all, I think it was a great season regardless of tonight.”
CLASS 3A STATE QUARTERFINALS
ST. CHARLES 51, RIVER HILL 48
River Hill 18 5 11 14 - 48
St. Charles 17 15 9 10 - 51
River Hill: Nesmith 15, Bundy-Garcia 9, T. Shane 9, Watson 7, Gill 6, Cazeau 2
St. Charles: Johnson 14, Taylor 14, Thomas 12, Forbes 9, Savoy 1, Johnson-Reeves 1