Oakland Mills senior Dajuan Dent is averaging 10.8 points and 7.9 rebounds a game for the undefeated Scorpions. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda / December 12, 2012)
Over the next four days, leading up to the start of the boys basketball playoffs, we’ll be previewing each of Howard County’s teams that received a top-four seed either in the 2A South Region or the 3A East Region. All four teams have first-round byes and will get their postseasons underway on Thursday, Feb. 28.
2A South: 1st seeded Oakland Mills (Saturday)
3A East: 3rd seeded Reservoir (preview up Sunday)
3A East: 2nd seeded River Hill (preview up Monday)
Record: 19-0 county, 22-0 overall
Last state final four appearance: 2001 (Finalist)
Top players: Senior Lavon Long (14.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 3.5 bpg, 3.2 apg, 2.5 spg); senior Dajuan Dent (10.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.9 bpg); junior Deshawn Willis (8.5 ppg); junior Marvin Williams (8.0 ppg, 3.2 spg), junior Nekhi Bradley (8.0 ppg).
Outlook: At 22-0, the Scorpions are the last public school in the state of Maryland that is still undefeated. They’ve been tested, playing six games that have been decided by five points or less, but each time the team has dug down and emerged victorious.
“This is a tough group of kids and they’ve really grown a lot this season,” coach Jon Browne said. “They’ve answered every challenge thrown at them so far.”
Getting the top seed in the region has its advantages, including an opening-round bye and the ability to play at home all the way through the region finals. But the draw itself didn’t do the Scorpions any favors.
Gwynn Park, the team that knocked off the undefeated Oakland Mills’ squad two years ago in the 2A South final, is the eighth seed. Should the Yellowjackets defeat McDonough in the opening round, they would advance to face Oakland Mills in the quarterfinals.
“It’s kind of funny that they could potentially be our first game, but we’ve been doing this long enough to know that if you want to get (to Comcast Center) you have to beat them along the way at some point,” said Browne, who is 0-3 all-time against Gwynn Park since taking over as head coach. “Gwynn Park is talented and is playing really well right now … they’re going to be tough. I tell you what, though, I welcome the challenge and the chance to have another shot at those guys.”
Should Oakland Mills win its quarterfinal game, teams like Central (13-7), Largo (12-9) and Marriotts Ridge (11-11) could potentially be waiting.
As difficult as the road may be, though, all those teams have the same tall task of trying to be the first this season to knock off the Scorpions.
“Teams still have to figure out ways to stop us too,” Browne said. “We are playing really well. Last week, our man-to-man defense was fantastic — some of the best we’ve played all season.”
This Oakland Mills group is deep, featuring six guys averaging six or more points a game.
Long is the best of the bunch, serving as an athletic wing guy who leads the team in scoring, rebounds, blocks, assists and total steals. He’s scored in double digits in every game but one this winter and, along with Dent, helps form a versatile one-two scoring punch.
Dent boasts one of the county’s best mid-range jump shots and also excels on the offensive glass.Ultimately, though, Oakland Mills’ greatest strength may be its ability to use its athletic guards to speed the game up. The Scorpions like to force turnovers, get out and go.