Every current Atholton player could tell you the last time the Raiders had beaten River Hill in a girls' basketball game. None of them were on the court, of course -- a fact that could be gleaned from the sheet Atholton Coach Maureen Shacreaw printed out and posted in the locker room. It detailed all the Raiders' losses to the Hawks since their last win, in 1997.

The streak was at 20. Written in big letters on the bottom of the printout was, "It's our time."

Atholton finally overcame River Hill last night on its home court, taking a lead early and fending off several pushes for a 55-43 win in the Howard County title game.

The Hawks beat the Raiders in last year's county championship on their way to the 3A state title. River Hill, who had also won four straight county titles, beat Atholton on Jan. 26 on a last-second three-pointer.

"When we lost to them earlier this year, I didn't think we were going to see them again," point guard Julie Taylor said. "I wanted them again."

Taylor (12 points) is a four-year varsity starter, and many of Atholton's juniors are three-year varsity players. They matured this season to lead No. 14 Atholton to its finest regular season record (20-3, 17-2) in program history.

But at halftime, with River Hill only three points behind, Shacreaw thought her team was on the verge of folding. Shacreaw asked her players if they were going to quit and she heard no reply. Stunned, she ripped into her players when they returned to the court. Then she got into Taylor's face and personally asked her if she had come all this way to quit.

"We all thought it was sort of a rhetorical question," Taylor said with a laugh. "I guess it wasn't. I told her, 'No,' after that."

Atholton scored the half's first six points. Despite a few runs, River Hill (16-6, 15-4) was unable to draw even.

Immediately after the final buzzer sounded, Taylor and Shacreaw embraced. "This is one we've wanted for a long time," Taylor said. "I'm glad we got to share it together."

No. 14 Atholton 55

River Hill 43

One-Girl Show:River Hill senior forward Kelsey Erdman scored a game-high 28 points, including all 15 of River Hill's second-quarter points. Erdman entered the game averaging about 13 points per game.

Slowdown:In the fourth quarter, Atholton had only one field goal, yet scored seven points from the free throw line. Meanwhile, the Raiders held River Hill to just six points.