CATONSVILLE, Md. — With a young team featuring just two seniors, River Hill girls’ basketball Coach Teresa Waters found plenty of teachable moments on her squad’s run to the Maryland 3A state final. The upstart Hawks may have received their best lesson about what it takes to win a championship on Saturday night, courtesy of an opponent familiar with the postseason learning curve.
Aberdeen — the state runner-up a year ago — captured its first title with a 62-48 win over River Hill at UMBC’s RAC Arena. Sophomore Jenna Collins finished with a team-high 12 points and eight rebounds, but the Hawks couldn’t keep up with the more seasoned Eagles, falling in the state title game for the second time in four years.
“We just continued to work,” Waters said. “We hate to see today come because this is the final day for 2011-2012, but it’s been a great season with a great group of girls.”
After posting a 30-point semifinal win over defending champ Frederick on Thursday, Aberdeen had a harder time shaking River Hill (22-5). Playing before the biggest crowd of the day, the Baltimore Sun’s top-ranked team built a double-digit lead with a 12-0 first-half run but never led by more than 16.
River Hill’s bid for a comeback never took hold thanks to Aberdeen’s high-pressure trapping defense and its 6-foot-3 junior center Brionna Jones.
The Hawks had 21 turnovers, including 14 in the first half, and on the other end, Jones led the Eagles with 25 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
Senior center Alauna Jackson — a 6-foot Morgan State recruit — spent much of the night in foul trouble, forcing the Hawks to push through without a key piece of their defensive plan. As Aberdeen’s offense stagnated in the second half, Jones continued finding room around the basket and second-chance opportunities with 11 of the team’s final 19 points.
But Waters hopes the Hawks will use the experience gained during their first postseason run as a group to fuel a bright future.
“We got the experience, so we can come back next year,” said junior guard Megan Sterling, who added nine points. “I definitely think with this group of girls we can do it for [the seniors] Holly [Sandler] and Alauna [Jackson] even though they’re not going to be here.”
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