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Undefeated Hawks Roll Into Final
River Hill Uses Pressing Defense To Rout Parkside

By Dave Yanovitz
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, March 14, 2009

CATONSVILLE, Md., March 13 -- The moment came midway through the first quarter of Friday's Maryland 2A girls' semifinal at UMBC's RAC Arena. River Hill's starting five realized that Parkside's guards had a difficult time dealing with defensive pressure, so the Hawks pounced.

They put on a press, and Parkside's guards buckled. They lost control of the ball, they threw looping passes that turned into steals, the steals turned into fast breaks, which in turn resulted in a lot of points. By the end of the first quarter, River Hill led its opponents from Salisbury by 23.

In the end, the sixth-ranked Hawks (27-0) won going away, 78-39. They will take the UMBC court Saturday seeking their second undefeated season in the past four years, and the second girls' basketball state title in the 13-year history of the Clarksville school.

"We press really well, and when we press, teams get frazzled," said center Ryann Dannelly (eight points, three blocked shots). "It helped that we do this in practice every day."

Another reason for River Hill's dominance was its size advantage. Dannelly, at 6 feet 4, and 6-0 forward Alicia Seelaus, both seniors, grabbed 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively; Parkside (20-5) has one 6-footer in center Amanda Pusey, but the Hawks had a height advantage at just about every other position. By halftime the Hawks had a 44-14 lead.

The Hawks looked especially adept with ball movement, which could be crucial in Saturday's 2A title game against City College (Balt.). They did so with great precision, consistently passing up a good shot for a better one.

"That's our motto -- being selfless, not selfish," said River Hill's Teresa Waters, who is in her 11th season as coach. "Any given night, your role could change."

Junior point guard Shantrel Oliver, whose transfer from Wilde Lake has been key, had 14 points to lead the Hawks, as did senior guard Alex Vega. Seelaus added 13 points, and forward Vanessa Collier 10.

The large lead also allowed Waters to use all 15 players (12 of them scored) and get a glimpse into what next year's team may look like -- four of the Hawks' five starters graduate in June. In one 15-second span in the fourth quarter, reserves Holly Sandler, a freshman, and Carlynne Hudson, a junior, hit deep shots from just inside the three-point arc, evoking cheers from the crowd.

Junior Ashaneyia Hyland led Parkside with 18 points; Shonte Stevenson had 13 points and 15 rebounds.

No. 6 River Hill 78, Parkside 39 Up Next: River Hill will play City College (Balt.) today at 1 p.m. at UMBC. Should the Hawks win, River Hill will reach an impressive milestone: 30 state championships in all sports since 1996, an average of more than two per scholastic year. Musical Talent: Before the game, River Hill senior forward Vanessa Collier displayed her musical talents by playing the national anthem on the saxophone.

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