With 2:41 remaining in Wednesday’s 2A South Section I quarterfinal matchup between Oakland Mills and Marriotts Ridge, fans were starting to get restless.
“Settle down,” one spectator shouted to the home Scorpions, who had just turned the ball over for the third consecutive time as they clung to a slim four-point advantage.
Playing without junior Mamadou Ndiaye, coach Jon Browne got clutch performances down the stretch from players like senior Marvin Williams and sophomore Larry Aaron when the team needed it most.
“We had some guys step up,” said Browne, whose Scorpions held on for the 46-44 victory over the visiting Mustangs. “We made just enough plays, and just enough free throws there.”
As the seconds ticked away in the game’s final frame, it looked like Oakland Mills (16-3, 19-4) was on the verge of losing another close game against a county foe. Less than two weeks ago, Browne’s guys fell at the hands of Centennial, failing to capture a county title.
That was the last time the Scorpions set foot on the court, and though the Mustangs (5-14, 8-16) were led by Robert Davis’ game-high 29 points, Williams — who matched Nekhi Bradley’s team-high 11 points — said it was a relief to come out on top again after the long break. “It’s good to get some payback,” he added.
In the first half, it was clear that both teams needed to figure out the game’s tempo. Without Ndiaye, who missed the game with an injury, Oakland Mills had trouble discovering who would take his place.
It wasn’t long before Aaron, a first-year varsity player, filled that void. The sophomore tallied eight points and nine rebounds in the winning effort.
“I thought he played some huge minutes for us,” said Browne. “His rebounding and help-side defense was tremendous.”
Heading into intermission, Williams’ deep 3-pointer as time expired gave his team a lift that carried over as the second half began. Throughout most of the third quarter, Oakland Mills maintained a sizable lead, though Davis’ 13 points in those eight minutes let the Mustangs hang around.
“He’s a tremendous player, and we had to pay a lot of attention to him,” said Browne. “But, it didn’t matter. He was unbelievable.”
In the fourth quarter, Marriotts Ridge went on a 6-0 run, holding the Scorpions scoreless until the 2:13 mark. Though missed free throws plagued the home team throughout, they especially hurt down the stretch. Going just 13-for-31 for the game from the stripe shouldn’t have been good enough to win, according to Browne. Clutch defense and the ability to drive to the rim ultimately kept them in contention.
The coach said his team has much to work on, and with the potential for three games in as many days, the Scorpions will need all the depth they can get.
“We have to get our big dog healthy,” said Brown of Ndiaye. “We look forward to getting him back on the court tomorrow.”
Oakland Mills will welcome Patuxent tomorrow for the Section I final.
Oakland Mills 46, Marriotts Ridge 44
OM: Nekhi Bradley 11, Marvin Williams 11, Larry Aaron 8, Daniel Kiely 6, Deshawn Willis 6, Naquan Williams-Day 2.
MR: Robert Davis 29, RJ Bryant 7, Markquice Stringfellow 4, Alex Caffes 2, Patrick Clipp 2.
Half: 19-13, Scorpions.