River Hill thoroughly handled a solid Glenelg team on Jan. 15, pressing the Gladiators into early turnovers, outrunning and outgunning them with a quicker lineup and outlasting them with a deeper bench in a 62-51 win.

So why did Coach Teresa Waters look so unsatisfied after her Hawks took firm control of Howard County's top spot by dispatching their second undefeated team in five days?

"What we see and what's in the back of our mind, a lot of times, is the [Prince George's County] schools," Waters said. "We've got to get better and better and better. . . . I do see a whole lot of areas that we need improvement in, a whole lot of areas. We by no means have gotten to the point where we need to be."

Still, at the midpoint of the county season, no team in Howard County has more reason to be satisfied than the Hawks, who were unseated as county champions last year after three straight titles. River Hill is 9-0 in league play and 11-2 overall, and has an average margin of victory of 32 points in conference wins.

The team's closest game was a 74-65 win over Wilde Lake on Jan. 3, but the Hawks led by 26 points after the third quarter.

However, River Hill has measured itself all season against teams from Prince George's -- teams that it will likely see in the playoffs -- and in that respect, the Hawks have not yet succeeded.

River Hill lost to Oxon Hill and Gwynn Park at the IAABO Tournament during the holiday break. The flaws that vexed Waters in River Hill's win over Glenelg -- the costly turnovers (27), missed shots (River Hill shot 41 percent) and lax defense (the Gladiators' 51 points were the third most by a losing River Hill opponent) -- were exposed by the teams from Prince George's, just like each of the past four years, when River Hill lost to teams from that county in the playoffs.

"We haven't played as a team yet so far this year," junior guard Ashley Thomas said, "and we are still winning, so I don't know. We just got to get it together. We are still winning, but I don't know what's there or not there."

The Hawks are as deep as any team in the county, with the quickness of point guards Marche{acute} Westray and Lakeisha Eaddy and the paint presence of post players Brittany Gordon and Kristina Joyner.

"We just haven't jelled as a team yet, I don't think," senior guard Laura Hostetler said. "The more we play together, the better we will be."

Hostetler is the team's scoring leader, averaging 17.8 points, but in the Hawks' wins over defending county champion Mount Hebron and Glenelg, it was forward Megan Buescher, as well as Gordon and Joyner, who took over at times.

Buescher and Gordon each had 10 points in River Hill's win over Mount Hebron on Jan. 10; Buescher had a team-high 19 against Glenelg, and Joyner chipped in with 11 points and eight rebounds in less than five minutes off the bench.

"I think that's the reason we've been so successful, because someone can have an off game and one of our teammates will just pick us up and come in and have an amazing game that night," Buescher said.

Exactly who gets that chance depends on practice, where scrimmages can get as intense as games. Hostetler wore a bandage on her nose earlier in the season after an errant elbow caught her in the face when she went for a rebound.

"It's really competitive," Buescher said. "Like at practice, there is scratches and blood. Everyone wants to be out on the court. It's really intense."

Still, it hasn't been intense enough, Waters said, because Gwynn Park looms large on the horizon. River Hill could see the Yellow Jackets in the Maryland 3A East Region playoffs.

Is the team ready?

"Absolutely not," Waters said. "You saw how many points we gave up. We are not ready for Gwynn Park."

Will they be?

"That's the intent," she said.

Hawks' Ashley Thomas, left, gets a step on Gladiators' Chrissy Starcher. The Hawks have an average margin of victory of 32 points in conference wins.River Hill's Brittany Gordon, far left, keeps the ball from Glenelg's Cheyenne Davidson. Despite Hawks' 11-2 record, Coach Teresa Waters, above, says her team needs to get better in anticipation of possible playoffs against Prince George's County teams.