The only thing to dampen Atholton's 70-62 victory over visiting River Hill in the Howard County championship game Tuesday came with 18 seconds left.
It was then that Raiders senior Sam Permutt injured his right ankle and was carried off the court by classmates Steve Lombardozzi and Torey Fassett.
The three seniors played a big role. Fassett, a forward, had a game-high 20 points. Permutt, also a forward, finished with 11 points, and Lombardozzi, a guard, added 13.
"I'm so excited for the seniors in general, but especially those three," Atholton Coach Jim Albert said. "They're such good players. Sometimes you try not to overcoach when you've got players like that. I just try to stay out of the way."
That the trio led the Raiders (20-3, 17-2) was not necessarily a surprise. Fassett averages a team-high 16.5 points, just ahead of Permutt (14.6 points) and Lombardozzi (14.5).
The Hawks, meanwhile, are propelled by standout Tommy Brenton, who had 24 points Tuesday. Yet he was not enough to offset Atholton's three leaders -- only one other player scored in double figures for River Hill (18-5, 15-3).
"Guy for guy, they can't match up," Lombardozzi said. "Brenton, he had a heck of a game and is a great player, but we knew it takes five to win, and we had the better five."
Fassett dueled with Brenton throughout the night. He acknowledged that he wanted to prove he was just as talented as Brenton, who is considered by several Howard coaches to be the county's player of the year, though it was not his focus.
"I'm not trying to match" Brenton, Fassett said. "I'm going to stay in my own game. I was pleased with my game, but I was more pleased with how the team played."
When Atholton lost to Long Reach in the region final last year, Permutt immediately thought about how good this year's team would be. He thought about all the experience it would have. Atholton has eight seniors, and the rest are juniors.
"I know as soon as I walked off the court last year I was focused. I know Stevie was focused, and I know Torey was focused for making a run this year," Permutt said.
Atholton has won seven in a row. The Raiders had won 12 straight before losing to River Hill in their only home defeat of the season. But that was an anomaly in the seniors' minds on this night as they celebrated their win.