Boys basketball: Unexpected hero lifts River Hill past Howard
Hawks junior guard hits three in overtime to earn 58-55 win
Brent Kennedy email@example.com
River Hill’s Jeremy Check only got one shot against Howard Dec. 17, but, as it turns out, that’s all he needed.
The junior guard, who was in the game during the final seconds of overtime because Varun Ram (14 points) had fouled out less than a minute earlier, caught the ball on the right wing with five seconds left on the clock and the score tied at 55. The rest, according to Check, was a blur.
“At first I was like, ‘Am I really about to shoot this?’ And I actually thought when I let it go, ‘this is going to be way off,’ but, man, somehow it went in,” said Check, who had hit five threes this season before his buzzer beater against the Lions. “It all happened so fast. You can’t think, you just react.”
Check’s big shot, earning River Hill a 58-55 victory, ended a frantic comeback effort by the Hawks, down as many as 15 points in the first half.
Howard, behind the post-to-post passing between MacGyver Biniak (14 points, 21 rebounds) and Reed Scott (12 points), led, 20-5, after the first quarter. The margin was the same, 27-12, with 4:58 left in the second quarter following a jumper by Justin Hawkins (10 points).
“We played two and a half quarters of basketball, and when we executed our game plan, we did some very good things,” Howard coach Kevin McDuffie said. “That high-low game with Reed and MacGyver was getting us a lot of easy baskets, but we stopped looking inside for some reason. We went away from what was working.”
River Hill, which got a boost from the return of guard Mike Campanaro from a hamstring injury, turned up the defense and closed the half on a 7-2 surge. Then, carrying that momentum, the Hawks scored the first eight points after halftime to close the deficit to two.
Leron Eaddy, who had a game-high 22 points to go with 10 rebounds and seven steals on the night, had 10 of his points during the run.
“Leron stepped up, everyone did really, and it started with defense. We weren’t going to make up those points without first stopping Howard on their end,” River Hill coach Matt Graves said. “Our 2-1-2, half-court trap I think slowed them down and it gave us some energy as we started getting steals.”
Howard (3-2, 4-2) managed to stay out in front for the rest of the third quarter, but River Hill (3-2, 3-3) got its first taste of the lead with 5:51 left in regulation following a 3-pointer by Ram. After the two teams traded baskets, Campanaro actually had a chance to end things in regulation. With nine seconds to go, and the score tied at 48, the senior stepped to the foul line and missed the front end of a one-and-one.
“It’s his first game back, he’s still getting his legs underneath him,” Graves said. “Put him in that situation a month from now and I’m confident he knocks those down.”
In the extra period, neither team led by more than a single possession, as Trey Ames (14 points) and Eaddy each came through with baskets for the Hawks and Quinton Lopez (12 points) and Hawkins carried the Lions. After a foul shot by Lopez tied things at 55, it was Check’s time to shine.
“Jeremy’s not afraid to shoot a three, with our system that thrives on the three, I don’t think anyone is,” Graves said. “That said, it was a big moment and a big shot and he came through, which, for a guy that hasn’t been in many of those situations, was great to see.”
Afterward, Check said that although it was only the team’s sixth game of the season there was some urgency to pull out a victory.
“We’ve lost some tough games already, so we approached this as basically a must win,” he said, referencing county losses to Reservoir and Oakland Mills by a combined five points. “Howard came into the game ahead of us (in the standings) and you don’t want to fall too far behind in the beginning. Tonight was definitely big.”
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