It was a fitting end to a perfect night. Oakland Mills senior Devin Hunter’s 3-pointer from the wing as time expired hit nothing but net, the Scorpions’ overflow crowd began spilling onto the floor and a celebration five years in the making broke out.
For an Oakland Mills program that had been patiently waiting for another shot to get over the Gwynn Park hump in the playoffs, Thursday night’s emphatic 73-45 2A South quarterfinal win in front of a sold-out gym was everything it could have hoped for.
“That’s a statement win for this team and for me, personally, it’s especially huge,” said Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne, who had lost to the Yellowjackets three straight years between 2009 and 2011. “We needed a game like this against a team like that … I couldn’t be more proud of these guys for their effort tonight.”
Oakland Mills (23-0), which remains the only undefeated public school team left in the state of Maryland, ended up being led by four guys scoring in double figures. Deshawn Willis led the way with 15, followed by Dajuan Dent (12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks), Marvin Williams (12 points) and Lavon Long (11 points, 12 rebounds).
The win advances the Scorpions into a semifinal match-up with Largo on Tuesday.
For Gwynn Park (13-11), Jalen Harris led the way with a game-high 22 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter. By the time he got going, though, the game was well in hand.
In front of a capacity crowd that had filled the gym nearly an hour before tip-off, Oakland Mills came out firing. Williams hit two deep threes in the opening minute to quickly stake the Scorpions to a 6-0 advantage.
“It was really important to get the crowd involved (early) and it made the momentum go up more and more … I was just really feeling it in the pre-game warm up,” Williams said.
Browne said those early points, which ended up giving Oakland Mills a lead it never surrendered the rest of the night, was key to settling the team’s nerves.
“That set the tone, got the fans into it … two absolutely huge shots by him,” Browne said. “From there, we just methodically kept widening the lead after that.”
Oakland Mills was up 13-8 after the first quarter and then really separated itself in the second. Behind a smothering defense that held Gwynn Park to just one field goal in the second quarter, the Scorpions opened up a 28-12 lead at the half.
“We couldn’t score … we struggled against their zone, got down and had to play from behind. That wasn’t where our game plan was,” Gwynn Park coach Michael Glick said.
Things didn’t get much better in the scoring department for the Yellowjackets after intermission, as they mustered just eight points in the third quarter.
“They weren’t shooting the ball well, so we kind of packed it in a little bit more and forced them to take those jumpers,” Browne said. “Their penetration against the zone, I’ve seen it, is incredible at times. We just really wanted to limit that.”
And while Gwynn Park was sputtering, Oakland Mills took advantage.
During a four-minute stretch in the middle of the period, Oakland Mills rattled off a 15-2 run that opened up the team’s first 30-point lead of the night. Included in that game-sealing push was a fast-break dunk by Williams that brought the crowd to its feet.
Oakland Mills went up by as many as 36 points, 61-25, at one point in the fourth quarter before emptying the bench. The 73 points ended up as the second most points Gwynn Park has allowed all season
“We’d beaten them three years in a row in the playoffs, so of course they’re going to be inspired,” Glick said. “We knew we were going to get their best shot … they’re undefeated for a reason.
“All credit goes to them, I thought they played an exceptional game.”
While the victory over the Yellowjackets was certainly big, Browne was careful afterward to point out that this is just the first step in what he hopes is a lengthy postseason run.