Comcast Center, University of Maryland - The Patterson Mill Huskies' first trip to the boys basketball state tournament in school history ended with a 56-34 semifinal-round loss to Oakdale on Friday night.
The Huskies, who won their first regional crown last Saturday with a thrilling, 60-59 victory over Wicomico in the 2A East final, are already planning on coming back to the state semifinals next year and will bank on the experience the picked up in Friday's loss.
"You can't buy that kind of experience," Huskies head coach Jeroud Clark said at a post-game press conference. "This is a very young team, and we have a lot of guys coming back next season. Except next year, we want to be playing on Saturday night."
Friday's semifinal matchup started with an acrobatic Patterson Mill bucket, as Malik Bonds tossed a pass to a leaping C.J. Keyser, who completed the alley-oop with dunk. Oakdale, however, grabbed the lead back in short order, and by the conclusion of the first quarter, the 2A West champs were leading Patterson Mill, 11-8.
The Huskies came out firing in the second quarter, with Keyser starting a seven-point Patterson Mill run via a jump shot. Bryce Butler put the Huskies in front, 13-11, with a three-pointer, and Keyser followed with another field goal to extend his team's lead to 15-11. That was as far in front at the Huskies would get.
With the ball back in Patterson Mill's possession, and the Huskies still up by four, Bonds was called for a technical foul. Oakdale responded with four straight points to tie the contest, then, following a pair of three throws from Keyser that briefly put Patterson Mill back in front, 17-15, the Bears' Clay Conner hit a shot while being fouled, and hit a free throw to put his team in front for good.
The Bears would outscore Patterson Mill 9-2 over the balance of the second quarter, and by halftime the Huskies were looking at a 27-19 deficit.
"That technical foul was definitely huge," Clark said. "That was a turning point for them. It wasn't exactly where the game was lost though. There were a lot of points where they just out-executed us."
The Huskies made it a two-possession game early in the third quarter, as Keyser and Bonds followed an opening field goal from Conner with back-to-back two-point buckets, making the score 30-24 in Oakdale's favor. The Bears once again had an answer though, reeling off 12 straight points to run out to a 42-24 lead.
"They were running a lot, and we weren't getting back on defense quickly enough on some plays," Keyser said. "They beat us on a couple of back door [plays], too. That's what happened."
At the conclusion of the third quarter, Oakdale was holding a 46-28 advantage.
The two teams would go nearly two minutes without scoring at the beginning of the third quarter before DaJuan Madden hit a pair of free throws for Patterson Mill. Oakdale followed with a six-point run, and added four more tallies before the final buzzer sounded. Patterson Mill would net just four more points, the last two of which came from Keyser, who finished the contest with a team-best 19-points.
Keyser, who also accounted for more than half of his team's offensive output in regional final the win over Wicomico, netting 32 points in that contest, was not unfamiliar with a few of Oakdale's better players, as he competes on an AAU team with Conner and Bears' forward Zach Thomas.
"C.J. is a big-time player, a big game player" Thomas, who finished with 29 points, said. "We knew he would come out hitting, and that we would have to try and limit him. It was a lot of fun being able to play against him tonight. It just made everything that much better, having that kind of competition."
Keyser also led the Huskies in rebounds with seven and blocks with four.
Butler registered five points, while Bonds had four points and a team-high two steals. Rahmon Felder had four points and four rebounds for Patterson Mill.