South River High junior Aleeyah Hopkins wasn’t supposed to get the ball for the final play of Thursday’s 4A East Region girls’ basketball semifinal game with Meade. Luckily, things didn’t go according to plan.

Hopkins hit a three-pointer with three seconds left in regulation, giving the Seahawks a 47-44 decision over No. 7 Meade. South River (18-6 overall) will play at region top-seed North Point of Charles County in a 4A Elite Eight match Saturday evening at 6 p.m.

With 5.9 seconds left in regulation and one second remaining on the shot clock, South River coach Mike Zivic called a timeout to setup a pick-play. The ball was inbounded to Hopkins, who found an open spot in the corner, a few inches behind the three-point line. She jacked up a shot that hit nothing but net.

“The ball wasn’t even supposed to go to me, I just went to the open spot and Tiffany [McKinney] found me, she gave me the ball and I knew I had to make the shot because we only one second left on the shot clock,” said Hopkins on her game-winning basket. “I was real confident about it and when you have confidence, things like that happen.”

“We have kids that step up every night and tonight was her [Aleeyah Hopkins] night to step up,” said Zivic. “I told her before the game that she was going to have a big night she started off strong, picked it up at the end and really got into a rhythm.”

After losing the previous contest, South River held the lead until 67 seconds remaining in regulation as Jamie Mckeither hit two free-throws to give the Mustangs their first lead, 44-43. The Seahawks didn’t flinch as Hopkins tied the game with a free throw.

Meade turned the ball over with 56 seconds left, but denied South River on several attempts on the other end before the ball it off a Meade player before going out of bounds. South River called timeout to set up the final play.

“They [Meade] are a very resilient team and we knew that, we had to keep our composure,” said Hopkins.

“I’m just proud of them, they just stayed in it and every time they got one, we just didn’t give in,” said South River coach Mike Zivic. “We never put our heads down, we knew that it was going to be close.”

The Seahawks pounced on the home team and went on a 10-0 run in the first three minutes of the game. The Mustangs quickly clawed back into the contest as junior guard Imani Bailey (17 points and 11 assists) had four points and two assists to close the margin to three.

Meade pulled even at 14 on a jumper by Veronica Young at 14-14 three minutes into the second before South River pushed out to a four-point advantage midway. The Seahawks didn’t trail until Mckeither’s free throw late in regulation.

“We didn’t want to come out flat and we didn’t want to give them any momentum,” said Zivic. “We wanted to come out and say that we are here to play, last game we played them they smacked us in the face and tonight wasn’t the cause.”

“We knew that it was going to be hard game because they came at us the last time,” said Kailee Knight who had a game-high 15 rebounds in the win. “Even though they kept coming back we getting that lead really set the precedence, they played our game.”

Now, the Seahawks are a win away from going to UMBC for the state Final Four. South River knows it’ll have to play at a high level against top-seeded North Point which eliminated Broadneck in Thursday’s other semifinal contest.

“It’s going to be a hard game because we are going into their house, long ride, different rest,” said Knight. “We just got to go in there and play hard, play our game and go do what we got to do and stay strong.”

“Same mindset we had today, go out and play defense and win every aspect of the game, win the turnover battle, win the rebounding battle and if we do that, we will come out with the victory,” said Hopkins.

South River 47, Meade 44
South River
South River: Hagins 13, McKinney 11, Hopkins 12, Bolden 8, Bresnahan 2, Knight 1. Totals: 16 9-13-47.
Meade: McKeither 14, Bailey 17, Young 4, Witty 2, Williams 4, Pressley 3. Totals: 15 14-19 44.