No. 14 Clinton Christian came into Saturday night’s Capital Beltway Championship game focused on two things.
Those little things cost Clinton in a pair of tight previous losses to the Crusaders, but they were a big reason the Eagles held off Riverdale in their third meeting at Takoma Academy. That, and the shooting of Hawkins in the second half, plus the consistency of fellow guard Jon Davis combined to help the Eagles survive a furious fourth-quarter Riverdale rally.
“We’ve been through a lot this year, been through a lot of losses and had to get our chemistry together,” said Hawkins, who finished with 12 points. “. . . but it turned out that we won a championship.”
The game appeared to be headed for a similarly close ending as the two matchups in the regular season, as Clinton Christian led by four after a half full of runs.
But Clinton Christian (19-8) embarked on a third-quarter run that lasted long enough to put the game just out of reach. The Towson-bound Hawkins knocked down two threes and finished with eight points in the third quarter alone, all of them part of a 15-4 run that gave the Eagles a 13-point lead by the start of the fourth quarter.
Then Riverdale (27-9) stormed back, cutting what ballooned to a 19-point deficit in the fourth to a three-point deficit at one point. But Davis hit seven of eight free throws in the closing minute on his way to 20 points and MVP honors.
“We knew they weren’t going to stay down by 20 the whole game,” Davis said. “I mean it’s Riverdale. They’ve got a whole lot of D1 players and coach Lou Wilson can really coach. Our big thing was just to stay together.”
Staying together off the court was never a problem for the Eagles this season, according to Davis, but coming together on it took time. Saturday’s championship saw Clinton Christian in sync on offense and defense, looking like a team of stars that had grown up playing together, rather than been thrown together in an early fall shuffle that caused some growing pains for the Eagles (19-8) in early season matchups with Riverdale (27-9) and others.
“Byron took 80 percent of the shots at Good Counsel. Allante (Holston, who finished with 16 points), he came from playing the 5 at St. John’s to transferring to the 3 here. LeRoy (Butts) came from O’Connell where he was catching the ball in the offense,” Davis said. “It was a big adjustment for everybody, and I guess it just took a longer time than we expected to adjust...now it’s coming together.”