As far as first games go, Thursday’s county opener between Centennial and Oakland Mills was about as sloppy as they come.
The two teams, regarded by many this preseason as the top two in the county, combined for over 30 turnovers and 41 fouls.
But in the aftermath of Oakland Mills’ 53-48 victory over the visiting Eagles in front of a packed gym, Scorpions coach Jon Browne wasn’t all that worried about the details. The bottom line was that his team had just overcome a fourth-quarter deficit to knock off last winter’s county champions.
“At the end of the day it was the first game, and it was definitely sloppy, but I was proud of the kids for not panicking when they (Centennial) made their runs,” Browne said. “I thought we showed more poise down the stretch offensively than we had all game.”
Dajuan Dent scored 15 points and Daivon Tapscott added 13, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:41 left in regulation, for an Oakland Mills (1-0, 1-0) team that had trailed by three points entering the fourth quarter. Omari Ringgold led the way with a game-high 18 points for Centennial (0-1, 0-1) in the loss.
The foul trouble for both teams resulted in plenty of swings in momentum and forced both teams to go deep into their benches. The lead changed hands seven different times over the course of the evening.
“It was difficult to get in the flow with so many fouls and I think it definitely went both ways, it just really hurt the ability to get a rotation going,” Centennial coach Chad Hollwedel said.
Oakland Mills took control early on behind the inside play of Dent and a couple threes by Tapscott, making up for senior-leader Lavon Long (10 points) being forced to the bench with two first-quarter fouls. With three minutes left in the opening half Oakland Mills held a 27-19 lead.
Centennial did close the deficit to three at the break, though, thanks to five unanswered points and then seemed to carry that momentum over into the second half. Behind some strong play from the team’s bench, including key baskets from Chase Conley (7 points) and Zach Olmstead (7 points), the Eagles took a 40-37 lead by the end of the third quarter.
“We got a huge lift from our kids off the bench,” Hollwedel said. “We needed some big minutes and I was really pleased with their composure.”
But just as quickly as Centennial had clawed ahead, Oakland Mills answered back with its own run to start the fourth quarter to continue the back-and-forth nature of the night. After that Scorpion push, six straight points by Ringgold midway through the final quarter gave Centennial its final lead, 46-44, with 3:03 remaining.
But on the very next possession Tapscott came down and hit a three from the top of the key to put Oakland Mills back ahead for good.
“I thought down the stretch Tapscott was huge for us,” Browne said. “He showed great poise and decision making … he made some huge jumpers in big spots. His minutes off the bench were phenomenal.”
With a few foul shots, Oakland Mills put itself ahead by three heading into the final seconds when Centennial’s Timi Tinuoye watched his 3-point attempt glance off the rim. The Scorpions came down to the other end and Dent put an exclamation point on the victory with a dunk as time expired.
“I’m not excited about the result, but it was a fun way to start in this kind of environment,” Hollwedel said. “This is what high school basketball is all about and it’s good for us to see this so early in the season.”
Oakland Mills, meanwhile, got itself a statement win to start the season.
“This feels great, we came out with the ‘W’ when everyone was talking about how they were the team to beat,” Dent said. “I had something to prove, we all did. We’re not scared of anybody, especially not in our house.”
Oakland Mills 53, Centennial 48
OM (1-0, 1-0): Dent 15, Tapscott 13, Long 10, Williams 8, Bradley 5, Reyna 2.
C (0-1, 0-1): Ringgold 18, Conley 7, Olmstead 7, Tinuoye 6, Eads 3, Benson 2, DeVries 2, Fletcher 2, Ruygrok 1.