Oakland Mills' Lavon Long will be the first to tell you it was never about the points. A 6-foot-6 guard-forward with 3-point range and the ability to get to the basket and finish above the rim, the senior could score with the best of them. And, with double-digit scoring efforts in every game but one this past winter, he consistently demonstrated that.
The truth is, though, Long's impact on the game stretched far beyond the scoring column. He was just as content doing all the little things that win games.
"Every time I stepped on the court I wanted to do whatever was needed for us to win," said Long, who finished among the top seven in the county in five major statistical categories this winter. "I never thought about the scoring or the rebounds, just played my game. The way I see it, the success of the whole season wasn't going to be based on me. It was about the team and I did whatever I could to make the team better."
With Long as its leader, Oakland Mills rolled its way to a perfect regular season (22-0), a county championship and a spot in the regional finals before suffering its first loss to Calvert.
As a senior transfer in from Mount St. Joseph, Long helped transform a Scorpions' program that won just eight games overall in 2011-12 and earned himself the distinction of being this year's Columbia Flier/Howard County Times Player of the Year.
"He was the pulse behind everything we did … He was the one that set the tone," Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne said. "He was an emotional leader more than anything and the kids fed off him. He helped make every guy that played alongside him into a stud and that speaks to his unselfishness."
After making the decision to transfer to Oakland Mills at the end of the spring, Long got his first chance to play with his new teammates during the summer league and he quickly built up a chemistry that paid dividends from day one this winter.
Oakland Mills earned a five-point victory over Centennial and a one-point win over Reservoir in its first two games, before handling River Hill by double digits for a 3-0 start.
Winning was nothing new for Long, who had played his first three years of high school with one of the top private schools in the state. But for the rest of the Scorpions it was a feeling they were hungry for more of.
"I felt like those first couple games really sparked the season," Long said. "Everyone saw that we could do it and they started believing in themselves."
Long, himself, hit the ground running with seven straight double-digit scoring efforts. Browne says the fact that Long had decided to sign a letter of intent to play for Loyola University (MD) before the season took away any potential distractions.
"I thought it really took a weight off his shoulders and allowed him to just be himself out there," Browne said. "He didn't have that pressure of going out every night trying to impress somebody … he was able to make winning the sole focus and help us reach our potential as a team."
As the season rolled on, Oakland Mills kept winning and Long kept stuffing the stat sheet. By season's end he finished with averages of 15 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.6 blocks 3 assists and 2.5 steals a night. He was the team leader in all of those categories except steals and for good measure he threw in 14 3-pointers and took 18 charges.
And when the season did finally come to a close, Long didn't go down with a fight. Against Calvert in the 2A South regional final, he produced a season-high 25 points to go along with 12 rebounds to keep Oakland Mills in position to win until the final seconds.
While the loss kept the Scorpions from reaching their ultimate goal of a state title, Long said he has no regrets.
"Overall, yeah, I'm happy with the season that we had … it was everything I could have hoped for when I made the decision to transfer," he said. "It was tough to lose that game but that doesn't change the rest of the season."
Named to the all-county first team are:
Robert Davis, Marriotts Ridge. After the Mustangs graduated three players that averaged nine points or more last season, the spotlight was squarely on Davis this winter and the junior point guard delivered. He upped his scoring average nearly eight points a game to 17.8 points a night and did all the little things the Mustangs needed to produce a winning county record for the second consecutive season.
"He's really a calming influence, doing literally a lit bit of everything for us," Marriotts Ridge coach Marcus Lewis said. "He has such a well-rounded game and carried our team for long stretches this season."
Davis scored in double figures in 22 of 24 games, going for a season-high 31 against Wilde Lake with seven threes. He also scored 25 points, including the game winning 3-pointer in the final seconds, against Reservoir. On the season, he shot over 40 percent from 3-point range and made 54 shots from beyond the arc - more than any other public school player. He also shot 83 percent from the foul line and averaged 2.8 assists a game.
Dajuan Dent, Oakland Mills. The lanky 6-foot-5 forward showcased a remarkable level of improvement this winter, finishing off a high school career that actually began with him get cut from the Scorpions' JV squad as a freshman. Long hours in the gym developing his jump shot, a defensive presence and mind for the game did wonders in terms of transforming him into one of the county's top players.
"He made one of the biggest jumps I've ever seen … an incredible testament to the work that he put in," coach Jon Browne said. "He was a student of the game and worked on his craft. He earned everything he got."
After averaging just 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds a game as a junior, Dent more than doubled his averages in both of those categories this winter. He posted 17 games scoring in double figures en route to an average of 10.9 points a night to go along with 8.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks each time out. He thrived on the offensive glass (nearly four a game) and had arguably the best mid-range jumper in the county. "There were times this year where he was knocking down 15-foot jumpers like they were lay-ups."
Brian Green, Long Reach. Transferring in from Hammond, Green took a few games this winter to find his place in the Lightning offense. But by the midway point of the season, he was rolling and so was Long Reach. The senior scored in double figures in 14 of his final 16 games, including a season-high 31 points against Oakland Mills, and helped his team rattle off six straight wins at one point down the stretch of the regular season.
"Brian really began accepting that go-to-player role for us as the year went on," coach Al Moraz Jr. said. "He's one of those kids that possesses the ability to take over games so I think naturally you want the ball in his hands as much as possible."
A 6-foot-2 athletic guard, Green was terrific at getting himself to the rim and finishing among the big boys. He also knocked down 28 3-pointers this season to keep defenses honest. His 14.8 points per game ranked him among the top 10 in the county. In addition to the scoring, Green also contributed 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.0 steals every time out.
Walt Moody, River Hill. Another one of the most improved players in the area this winter, Moody went from averaging just under 15 points a night as a junior to 21 a game this season. More important than the number of points, though, was when he got them - consistently carrying the Hawks down the stretch of games.
"Walt is the kind of guy that isn't afraid to take the bull by the horns," River Hill coach Matt Graves said. "He just knows how to make the big play and those kind of kids are very hard to find. When then games get tight, that's when Walt is at his best."
Moody produced the game-winning basket against Arundel over Christmas break, scored 31 in a win over Centennial during the regular season, and then went for a career-high 37 in a season-ending loss to Centennial in the playoffs. He possessed the ability to make threes (14 on the season), but his bread and butter was scoring in the paint. He averaged 8.4 rebounds a game, three of which were usually courtesy of offensive rebounds, and when teams fouled him he shot 75 percent from the foul line.
Warren Powers, Glenelg Country. Built like a power forward, but possessing the skills of a guard, Powers was the definition of a match-up nightmare. This year, he literally did a little bit of everything for a Dragons' team playing against some of the top teams in the state every night in the MIAA A Conference.
"I thought he got better every year since he got here … his ball handling and shooting got better, but even more than that I thought he developed into an outstanding defensive player," Quinlan said. "You put that with his knack for scoring he's had from day one and he really was an all-around guy for us."
Powers had his share of huge games, including four different efforts of at least 17 points and 14 rebounds. His top performance may have been a 22-point, 17-rebound night against Calvert Hall. He also was consistent, scoring in double figures every game on his way to averaging over 18 points a night. In addition, he averaged 10 rebounds a night to join Oakland Mills' Lavon Long as the only county players to average a double-double.
Omari Ringgold, Centennial. Finishing as the county's top scorer this season at 21.1 points a night, Ringgold was also the only county player to go for over 30 points on four different occasions. He even saved one of his best performances for last, going for a career-high 42 points in a triple-overtime victory over River Hill in the playoffs. His 3-pointer in the final second of regulation was the basket that forced overtime. "That game summed up what Omari has meant to this program … he simply wasn't going to let us lose," coach Chad Hollwedel said. "The way he attacked the basket and carried us, it really was amazing to watch."
Coming off a junior season where he averaged 17 points a game as a compliment to Player of the Year Keonte Potts, Ringgold was the main man this winter for the Eagles. He was the one now facing the double teams, but he found ways to continue to thrive. He excelled at getting out in transition, hitting the boards for put-back baskets and utilizing screens. But he also developed a great face-up game. He was the game-high scorer 19 of the 25 times he stepped on the floor this season. "He was tremendous at realizing what spots he was going to be the most successful in and finding ways to get there," Hollwedel said.
Charlie Thomas, River Hill. A 6-foot-6 forward still just scratching the surface of his potential, Thomas is the only sophomore to make first-team this winter. Already a handful for opponents with his back-to-the-basket as a freshman, he added another dimension to his game this winter to include an ability to knock down contested jumpers. He even showcased extended range by the time the postseason rolled around, hitting three 3-pointers in a triple-overtime loss to Centennial.
The diverse offensive arsenal resulted in a scoring average of 17 points a game. He scored in double figures in every game but one, including a season-high 26 points in a win over Glenelg. The only game he didn't score more than 10 was against a Long Reach, a game in which he played only two minutes because he had the flu. His shooting percentage of 52.4 percent from the floor was top on the team.
To go along with the points, Thomas also averaged team-highs of 8.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun