The Atholton boys' basketball team refused to recognize that River Hill defeated the Raiders earlier this year. Yes, the Hawks came into Atholton's gym on Jan. 26 and scored more points, but they beat some other team, not the current Raiders squad.

So Atholton entered yesterday's Howard County championship with complete confidence.

And 30 seconds into the game, it was evident this game would be different from the earlier contest. River Hill opened the game with an unsuccessful alley-oop and Atholton got its first basket on a full-court heave to streaking senior Torey Fassett.

The Raiders never slowed down and the Hawks never caught up, resulting in a 70-62 Raiders win.

"We came out with a mission," Atholton senior guard Steve Lombardozzi said. "Last time we played into their hands. We slowed down the game. That's not our style of basketball. We like to run. Right out of the chute, we wanted to make a statement there."

River Hill (18-5, 15-3) beat the Raiders (20-3, 16-2), 38-35, in the first game after playing at a snail's pace and hitting a go-ahead three-pointer in the final 30 seconds.

By the end of yesterday's first quarter, the score was 18-14, the same number of points scored in the first half of the January game. River Hill senior Tommy Brenton scored 24 points -- after being held to 13 points in the first meeting -- but River Hill had only one other player in double figures.

"We did everything faster [this game]," senior Sam Permutt said. "It was a much faster-paced game and that just played right into our hands."

"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."

Atholton 70, River Hill 62

Late Injury:Permutt (11 points, 14 rebounds) injured his ankle with 18 seconds left in the game and left the court on crutches.

Rally-Stopper:With River Hill within six points in the fourth quarter and on a breakaway, Raiders senior guard Brett McQuilkin stole the ball and drove the length of the court for a momentum-changing field goal.