Stepping to the foul line with less than a second remaining in a tie game against Hammond, Oakland Mills’ TyAsia McDuffie tried to clear her head.
The fate of the Scorpions’ season opener Thursday night rested in her hands and she admitted afterward that the nerves were creeping in.
“I had to forget about everybody, forget about everything and just focus on making the shot,” she said. “It was like, if I don’t make this then we’re done.”
In the end, the sophomore guard delivered.
McDuffie calmly sank her first foul shot, sending the home fans into a frenzy and providing what ended up being the deciding point in a 47-46 victory.
On a night where she had often deferred to her teammates, helping set up Marley Grenway on her way to a game-high 20 points for Oakland Mills (1-0, 1-0), McDuffie (2 points) took her turn in the spotlight when it mattered most.
“The difference this year is that we have a number of different players that are capable of stepping up in crunch time,” first-year coach Walt Hagins said. “Marley is obviously a big piece of the offense, but now she doesn’t have to do it all. And you saw it tonight, on the last play everyone is guarding Marley and TyAsia comes down, gets fouled and then made the big shot.”
Other standouts on the night for the Scorpions were junior forward Aislynn Riggs (12 points) and sophomore guard Jasmine Washington (11).
The game itself was a back-and-forth affair throughout, featuring nine lead changes and no lead larger than six points for either team. In the closing 20 seconds, each team had the ball with a chance to score the deciding basket and Hammond coach Raymona Reid said she couldn’t have asked for a better effort from her group.
“I just pulled them to the side and you see tears, but I’m OK and we’re OK. When you can walk off a floor, knowing you put everything out there, I will take that every day,” she said. “We are working to get to a point where every team knows they have to come to play if they want to beat us. We want to change the culture and with efforts like tonight, we are doing that.
“Oakland Mills made a play at the end and they beat us, but it was a great game.”
Juniors Imani Reid and Nyelle Allen led the way with 10 points apiece for Hammond (0-1, 1-1), which had opened the season with a win over DuVal earlier in the week. Senior guard Ashlyn McInerney also chipped in with nine points.
It was a 3-pointer by McInerney three minutes into the first quarter that staked the Golden Bears to their largest lead of the night, 8-2. But Oakland Mills answered right back with its own 9-0 run to take its first lead of the game.
From there, it was a back-and-forth affair. McInerney made a highlight-reel reverse put-back lay-up as time expired at the end of the first half to tie the score 22-22 going into intermission.
At the end of the third quarter it was a lay-up from Grenway, who also hit five 3-point shots in the game, that gave Oakland Mills a 35-33 advantage heading into the final period.
Oakland Mills was still ahead by two points with less than a minute left, but Hammond’s Allen made a turnaround shot in transition to tie the score at 46-46.
Each team made a defensive stop over the next 20 seconds, giving Oakland Mills the ball underneath its own basket with four seconds left. After a timeout, the Scorpions found McDuffie on a long-distance pass down the right sideline and she dribbled toward the basket where she was fouled with less than a second remaining.
She made the first foul shot and then missed the second, allowing the clock to run out and the Scorpions to claim the win.
Hagins said afterward that prevailing in such thrilling fashion to open the season was huge, especially considering the Scorpions won just one county game all of last season.
“For us, we knew that this first game can set the tone for the season. So to come out in our home gym, or our laboratory as we like to call it, and to stick with it really meant a lot,” Hagins said. “Although I think we didn’t play our best, the fact that we found a way really has set the momentum for us in a positive direction going forward.”
Oakland Mills 47, Hammond 46
OM (1-0, 1-0): Marley Grenway 20, Aislynn Riggs 12, Jazmine Washington 11, TyAsia McDuffie 2, Amel Lightfoot 2.
Ha (0-1, 1-1): Imani Reid 10, Nyelle Allen 10, Ashlyn McInerney 9, Makenna Burns 8, Keisean Brown 7, Maya Lane 2.
Archbishop Spalding 55, Reservoir 40
Led by a game-high 25 points from Taysha Bender, Spalding was able to pull away in the fourth quarter for the 15-point victory.
Reservoir, which lost for the second time this week, did have several standout individual efforts in the loss. Hydeniah Moore finished with a double-double (17 points and 12 rebounds), Kate Abunassar had 10 points (two 3-pointers and 4-4 from foul line) and Emily Dorn returned from an ankle injury to score seven points and grab 12 rebounds.
The Gators were trailing 15-0 after the first quarter but regrouped to go on a 17-2 run and tie the game with Dorn providing a spark off the bench.
“Eventually we took a 2-point lead, but down the stretch the effort to come back from a 15-point deficit caught up with us and we played on tired legs and couldn’t quite get over the hump,” Reservoir coach Deb Taylor said.
Reach Brent Kennedy at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports