Beating a team twice during the regular season is a difficult task. But to beat the same team a third time in a win-or-go-home playoff game is even more to ask, especially of a team like Oakland Mills with no seniors and little playoff experience on the roster.
But that’s exactly what the Scorpions accomplished on Thursday night in a 2A South regional semifinal against Glenelg. They went on an 18-2 run spanning the second and third quarters to take a double-digit lead before holding off a late Gladiators rally and a controversial finish for a 47-45 home victory.
Oakland Mills (16-8) will face host Westlake on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the 2A South regional championship for a chance to play in the final four for the first time since 2015.
“That’s a difficult task, a difficult feat,” coach Walt Hagins said. “I’m just so proud of our girls that we buckled down. The mantra was one game; they’re going to play basketball and they weren’t thinking about the past, we weren’t thinking about the past. It was one game for 32 minutes.”
Jazmine Washington led the Scorpions with 16 points, 12 of which came in the second quarter, while Marley Grenway (10 points) and Aislynn Riggs (11 points) also scored in double figures. Oakland Mills closed the half on a 9-0 run and Washington’s 3-pointer with 2 seconds remaining gave it a 21-18 advantage at the break.
The lead ballooned to 10 after another 7-0 run gave Oakland Mills a 30-20 lead, and it held a 41-29 advantage midway through the fourth quarter before Glenelg started to chip away.
“Glenelg is a good team, so we knew they would come back and they wouldn’t give up,” Hagins said, “but we felt that if we got a cushion we’d let them expend their energy and hopefully we could outlast them.”
The Gladiators (16-8) put themselves in position to tie or win the game in the final seconds thanks in large part to senior guards Jess Foster (game-high 20 points) and Kellie Johnson (12 points). Foster, who scored all nine of her team’s points in the second quarter and 11 in the fourth, started attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line.
Johnson did the same. A put back and a layup cut the deficit to 41-34, and another basket after a Scorpions turnover with 51 seconds remaining made it 42-36. A deep 3-pointer by Foster cut Oakland Mills’ advantage to 43-39, and after the Scorpions made just one of two free throws for the second straight possession, a Johnson layup with 25 seconds left made it a one-possession game at 44-41.
Oakland Mills’ Ty’asia McDuffie (five points) made one of two from the charity stripe and Foster again attacked the basket and capitalized by making both of her free throw attempts. Up 45-43, the Scorpions threw the inbound pass away, which gave Glenelg possession with 16.7 seconds left.
An off-balance layup by Foster didn’t go and Riggs made both of her ensuing free throws with 5.6 seconds to go to extend Oakland Mills’ lead to 47-43.
Glenelg, however, wouldn’t quit. Foster was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 0.9 seconds remaining. She made the first two and missed the third on purpose, and while the Gladiators secured the rebound, the buzzer had already sounded.
According to the National Federation of High Schools rulebook, “the clock shall be started when the ball touches or is touched by a player on the court” if a free throw is not successful and the ball remains live. The referees huddled and awarded possession to the team with the possession arrow, which was Oakland Mills, and the Scorpions held on for the win.
“I thought we had the rebound and the clock obviously started before anyone touched the ball, and then they gave the ball to Oakland Mills for shot possession,” Glenelg coach Chris Beil said. “It is what it is. The game shouldn’t have come down to that but it did. ... The ref told me he blew possession dead before anyone has possession, but from my vantage point we had the ball.”
Hagins said his team started to panic down the stretch and blamed himself for the late-game collapse and “uncharacteristic” turnovers. As for the final play, he thought the ball was touched.
“It bounced and we thought the game was over. We didn’t have clear, definitive answers and went with the officials. Fortunately we had the arrow,” he said. “... We felt that it was touched and that’s why we had given up on the play but the official — one didn’t get a look at it, the other one did, the third one didn’t know, so that’s why they went to the table. There was some indecisiveness on their part.”
Beil, however, said his team shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place. He said his team struggled at the free-throw line — Glenelg started just five-for-12 at the line and finished nine-for-17 — while Oakland Mills simply played better the majority of the game.
“It’s part of the game,” Beil said. “If we took care of our stuff at the beginning of the game this wouldn’t have happened.”
OM (16-8) — Jazmine Washington 16, Aislynn Riggs 11, Marley Greenway 10, Lilly Eldridge 5, Ty’asia McDuffie 5
G (16-8) — Jess Foster 20, Kellie Johnson 12, Olivia LePage 5, Leya Prezelski 3, Alex Anderson 3, Abby Gillespie 2