River Hill vs. Oakland Mills

Oakland Mills basketball coach Jon Browne reminds Mamadou Ndiaye to keep his arms straight up during a timeout with less than two seconds left in overtime against River Hill Wednesday night. (Staff Photo by Jen Rynda / January 8, 2014)

It was a week full of upsets and down-to-the-wire games, living up to the hype as one of the most critical stretches of the regular season thus far.

The two teams — Atholton and Oakland Mills — that emerged from the week without a loss are headed for a Monday showdown with first-place in the county on the line. Due to an unbalanced regular season schedule and the two teams being in different playoff classifications, it is the only time the Raiders and Scorpions will meet this year.

Oakland Mills is currently riding a 27-game winning streak in county play dating back to last season where the team finished the regular season undefeated.

Atholton, meanwhile, has a nine-game county-game winning streak of its own and was the only team in the league to win four games last week.

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This week’s edition of the rankings looks at both of those teams, along with what is becoming an increasingly muddled pack behind them.

As always, feel free to tweet at me @BKHoCoSports with comments and/or questions about the rankings.

* Previous week rankings are in ()

1. (1) Oakland Mills (8-0 county, 10-1 overall)

The Scorpions got all they could handle against River Hill on Wednesday, battling through a first-half where they scored just 15 points to eventually pull out an overtime victory. But proving that the team can win when it’s forced to play a slower tempo was an important step, as Oakland Mills did it again two days later against Mt. Hebron in a 55-46 decision. To put it in perspective, those two games against the Hawks and Vikings are the team’s two lowest scoring games of the season. A win on Monday against Atholton would give the team a two-game lead in the county-title race.  

Last game: Beat Mt. Hebron, 55-46. Next game: At Atholton on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

2. (2) Atholton (9-1 county, 10-2 overall)

Last Sunday, senior Justin Ballmer posted on twitter that “this week will show if we for real or not.” After going 4-0, winning two of those games in overtime, it’s safe to say that the answer is an emphatic yes. Ballmer was particularly impressive, as he hit what ended up being the game-winning shots in huge victories over River Hill and Reservoir. But don’t undersell the importance of Joelle Martin, who is averaging 10.2 points per game since playing his first game of the season over winter break. With him, Brandon Willis and Cole Mason the team has three very capable lead guards around Ballmer and Michael Bernetti.

Last game: Beat Reservoir, 76-73. Next game: Home vs Oakland Mills on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

3. (3) River Hill (8-2 county, 8-4 overall)

The truth is that the Hawks are one or two bounces away from being undefeated in county play right now. But, as it stands, River Hill was on the wrong end of two overtime games last week. The losses don’t change the outlook for the team going forward, though. This is still an incredibly disciplined group that has a great core around star forward Charlie Thomas, who has gone for 22 or more points in four of the last five games.

Last game: Beat Wilde Lake, 61-45. Next game: Home vs Marriotts Ridge on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

4. (6) Reservoir (6-3 county, 6-5 overall)

The Gators looked poised to finish off an undefeated week before Atholton delivered down the stretch on Friday night to earn the come-from-behind victory. But, even with the loss, Reservoir is showing signs of being the powerful team everyone expected it to be coming into the winter. Kyle Reilly scored 14 or more points in each of the last three games, including a career-high 33 against Atholton.

Last game: Lost to Atholton, 76-73. Next game: Home vs Hammond on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

5. (4) Mt. Hebron (6-4 county, 8-5 overall)