Patience and unselfishness. It has defined River Hill High boys basketball the last two decades, and it’s again in the hunt for the Howard County championship.
River Hill kept pace with a hard fought 57-54 victory over Reservoir in Fulton. Junior guard Braden Sauritch finished with 22 points for the Hawks (11-6 overall), and Aiden Igwebe added 15.
River Hill converted just enough free throws in the final minute of regulation and got a defensive stop at the end to win its fifth straight game. The win keeps the Hawks (9-3) one game behind Wilde Lake and Long Reach (both 10-2) for first-place.
The victory also avenged a 74-63 home loss to Reservoir in early December.
“Patience is a virtue,” said Hawks longtime coach Matt Graves. “I’m a big believer in running the clock down…making the opponent work on defense. We just changed our mentality and locked down defensively.”
Senior guard Josh Abu got a hand on Reservoir’s Zach Chin desperation 3-point attempt as the clock expired, securing the victory. It was atonement for Abu, who missed a dunk minutes earlier and drawing Graves’ ire.
River Hill, which prefers to play below the rim with a deliberate pace, led 51-43 after two free throws from Igwebe with 5:22 left in regulation. The Gators were within a possession, 54-51, on Chin’s 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining.
Sauritch missed a jumper with about 15 seconds left, but River Hill kept possession with the alternating jump ball. Demetre Koutras converted one of two free throws with 11.4 seconds to play for a 55-51 advantage.
Reservoir got an off-balanced 3-pointer from Chin with 5.3 seconds remaining to pull to 55-54. Koutras hit one free throw, but a violation before his second attempt gave possession to the Gators with 4.4 seconds to play.
After a timeout, Reservoir’s inbound pass sailed out of bounds behind the River Hill bench. Justin Bishop was fouled and hit one of two free throws in the double bonus, giving the Hawks a 57-54 lead.
Abu (3 points) closed it out with his stop on Chin. The Hawks have won eight of nine in Howard County play since the start of the new year.
“We knew what we needed to do tonight. We knew who their two guys were and did a good job shutting them down,” said Sauritch. “We played as a team, moved the ball and had high energy.”
Chin finished with a game-high 24 points for Reservoir (12-4, 9-4 Howard), which fell two games behind Long Reach and Wilde Lake in the loss column with four games remaining. The Gators play at Long Reach Monday afternoon.
The Hawks are at Marriotts Ridge, which handed them their lone league loss in the new year. River Hill also has Howard, Atholton and Centennial remaining in the regular season.
“You play in February and you peak in February,” said Graves, who led River Hill (2007; Class 3A) to one of Howard County’s three state titles since 2000 (Long Reach, 2006 and Oakland Mills, 2015). “We’re gradually getting there. I don’t think we’re near our ceiling, but as long as these kids keep working hard in practice and believing in each other, we’re going to keep moving in the right direction.”
RIVER HILL 57, RESERVOIR 54
River Hill - Sauritch 22, Igwebe 15, Koutras 7, Watson 5, Behrmann 3, Bishop 3, Adu 2. Totals 17 14-25 57.
Reservoir - Chin 24, Johnson 8, P. Eggleston 7, Jones 6, Mackall 4, Hunter 3, L. Eggleston 2. Totals 17 13-16 54.
River Hill 13 22 9 13 - 57
Reservoir 14 15 10 15 - 54