Struggling offensively early, the Severna Park girls basketball team turned to its defense to earn a 52-34 victory over South River in an Anne Arundel County game last night in Edgewater.

The Falcons (6-3, 4-0)--who won their third straight and snapped the Seahawks' five-game winning streak--had 23 steals and, sparked by senior guard Natalie Hicks, broke the game open with a 22-6 second-quarter run.

Hicks, who missed her first five shots as Severna Park opened the game 0 of 9, finished with 22 points, 7 steals, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. She played all but the final 1 minute 15 seconds and hit 10 of her last 15 shots.

"We were mentally prepared, we just started off a little slow," Hicks said. "After awhile we got into it and our shots started falling. I knew eventually my shot would fall and it did."

Senior point guard Meg Miller added nine points and seven steals, as Severna Park forced South River (5-4, 2-2) into 32 turnovers.

"I'm not much of an offensive coach," Severna Park Coach Bill Giblin said. "Defense is what we preach and defense is what we play. We play 11 different defenses. This is a very intelligent team, and when I can change defenses that often, other teams don't know what hit them."

Trailing 9-8 after the first quarter, Hicks propeled Severna Park in the second quarter. She put back two missed shots and hit a turnaround jumper within a 59-second stretch to give the Falcons a 27-14 advantage. Hicks then converted two free throws with 1:45 remaining to put Severna Park up, 30-15.

"Defense is our main emphasis this year," Hicks said. "That's what we work on in practice and it pays off. Every game we get a good handful of steals."

Hicks then scored 10 of her team's 20 points in the second half to put the game out of reach.

"She's our best shooter and we know she's going to outwork everybody," Giblin said. "She plays hard, attacks the ball and is our leader."