When River Hill's Keiko Miller-Tate said the final four minutes of the first half was the best stretch of her career, no one argued the point.
Miller-Tate scored 15 consecutive points over that span, and finished with a game-high 22 points as the No. 13 Hawks scored a surprisingly easy 57-37 home victory over No. 16 Mount Hebron in a battle of unbeaten Howard County teams last night.
Miller-Tate went 5 for 5 from the field, including two three-pointers, and made all three of her free throw attempts during the final 3 minutes 43 seconds of the half as River Hill (12-0, 8-0) turned a one-point deficit into a 26-13 halftime lead. The 6-foot-2 forward-center usually posts up down low, but with teammate Greeta Outen-Barlow being double- and triple-teamed every time she got the ball near the basket, Miller-Tate jumped outside for the open shot.
"I just felt I was on tonight," Miller-Tate said. "They knew I was an inside player, but I don't think they knew I had an outside game, so I kind of surprised them."
Miller-Tate broke open a close game almost single-handedly. The game had been a defensive struggle for the first 1 1/2 quarters. River Hill trailed, 12-11, with just under four minutes left when Miller-Tate went to work.
She first took a nice pass from Outen-Barlow and made a layup for a 13-12 lead with 3:43 left. Miller-Tate then made a jumper with 2:10 left, and added two free throws and a three-point play for a 20-13 lead with 1:11 left.
Miller-Tate followed with a long three-point shot with 35 seconds left and capped the scoring spree by banking in a three-point shot with six seconds left for the 26-13 lead.
"As soon as they double- and triple-teamed me, she just swung outside," Outen-Barlow said. "I got her the ball . . . and she stepped up."
Miller-Tate also 11 rebounds for the Hawks. Outen-Barlow finished with 12 points, despite drawing lots of attention from Mount Hebron (11-1, 7-1) all game. Instead of being frustrated, however, Outen-Barlow calmly moved the ball around to her teammates.
But River Hill's defense slowed a potent Mount Hebron offense. The Hawks forced 18 turnovers, and the Vikings rarely could get good shots. When they did find open shots, the ball kept rolling out, as Mount Hebron finished 11 of 48.
River Hill turned over the ball 22 times, much to the dismay of Coach Teresa Waters. But the Hawks' defense proved impossible to beat. Fana Walcott (nine points) and Rashida Walcott (eight points) made a number of steals, throwing the Vikings out of any rhythm.
Tiffaney Randle and Lauren Kickham had 14 points each for the Vikings, but leading scorer Erin Jaschik managed only one point. Only three other players scored for Mount Hebron.
"I give them credit," Mount Hebron Coach Scott Robinson said. "They've got a great team."
CAPTION: River Hill's Greeta Outen-Barlow (12 points) looks for opening between Mount Hebron's Tiffaney Randle (14 points), left, Cortney Lombard.