At 6 feet 7, River Hill forward Charles Thomas IV is usually the tallest and strongest player on the floor at any given time. And in the final minutes of Friday night’s game against Reservoir, the soft-spoken junior was playing point guard.
Thomas did a little bit of everything in the fourth quarter, scoring the decisive basket, grabbing a rebound on the other end and then hitting one of two free throws in the closing seconds. He finished with 26 points, nine rebounds and four blocks to lead the Hawks past Reservoir, 55-53, in a pivotal early-season clash in Howard County.
“He’s a matchup nightmare,” River Hill Coach Matt Graves said. “He can bring the ball up for me. He can shoot the three. He can get to the rim. He’s so versatile that in this county, you just don’t see a 6-foot-7 guy bringing the ball up the court.”
With the victory, the Hawks (4-0) picked up their third win in as many nights. Thomas played a significant role in two of them, racking up 34 points — including 21 in the fourth quarter — in River Hill’s win over Centennial on Thursday.
Thomas got off to a slow start Thursday night and followed suit Friday with only six points in the first half. The Gators (2-2) trailed but came out of the locker room with full-court pressure, quickly scoring the first eight points of the half and seizing the lead.
That’s when Thomas decided it was time to elevate his game.
“They stepped the intensity up way more in the second half, and we had to bring it,” he said. “We didn’t have that much in the first half. We had to go ahead and push it out. Step the pressure up.”
Graves said Thomas, who has drawn interest from numerous Division I schools, projects as an athletic small or power forward at the next level. So rather than leave him under the rim to constantly post up opponents, Graves allows the him to advertise his skill set and do a little bit of everything.
That skill set created endless matchup problems late in Friday night’s game, when Thomas took the ball up the court and forced Reservoir’s center to defend him on the perimeter.
“Any time we play Reservoir, it’s a grind-out game. And it was a photocopy of how it was last year,” Graves said. “But we found a way to put it in the right man’s hands.”
Even when he didn’t have the ball, Thomas occupied Reservoir’s attention, creating open looks for a host of River Hill guards such as sophomore Michael Heitzmann, who chipped in nine points and four rebounds.
The win put River Hill atop the Howard County standings with Oakland Mills (4-0), which is also undefeated after a win over Howard on Friday.
“We’re up there, us and Oakland Mills, at the top of the county right now. Hopefully we can stay there,” Thomas said. “If we keep playing like we did tonight, we’ll be in good shape.”