In its final regular season game, with a lengthy layoff on the horizon before playoffs, Oakland Mills earned itself a momentum-building signature win Wednesday night against first-place Marriotts Ridge.
Four players scored in double figures, led by 20 points from DJ Hopkins, to help the Scorpions pull away down the stretch for a 67-60 victory that secures Oakland Mills (12-4, 17-5) its third straight win before the postseason and, in the process, puts a significant dent in the county title hopes of the Mustangs (11-4, 15-6).
“We had a team coming in here that was trying to win a county championship on our senior night, so it was on us to match their intensity,” Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne said. “And, in some ways, this one meant just as much to us because we need to build some momentum here. This was our last chance, with a 12-day layoff staring us in the face, to get ourselves moving in a positive direction.
“And, while we weren’t perfect, the kids responded well … especially in the fourth quarter.”
Oakland Mills junior Barry Evans talks about the Scorpions' 67-60 win over Marriotts Ridge on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020.
Oakland Mills never trailed after the opening minute of game, building an early lead courtesy of a 10-2 run in the first quarter that it was able to maintain the rest of the way. However, Marriotts Ridge —which came into the night tied with Reservoir for first place in the Howard County standings — never stopped fighting.
The Mustangs got back as close as two points on three different occasions in the fourth quarter, including following a layup by John Miller (game-high 21 points) with 3:11 left in regulation that made it 55-53.
But Oakland Mills simply wasn’t to be denied, answering with a back-breaking 6-0 spurt over a 90-second span that officially put the game out of reach.
“We played our butts off today and sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. I’m proud of them, though. They knew what the stakes were, and they refused to give up,” Marriotts Ridge coach Tim Brady said. “Credit to Oakland Mills and Coach Browne for their adjustments, turning up that man-to-man defense really, really high. They made a couple more plays than we did, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort on our part.”
In the final minute, Browne brought in Joshua Ndiritu off the bench for his defense and foul shooting. And, at the end of a game where Oakland Mills made just 13 of 33 from the free-throw stripe, Ndiritu stepped up and calmly sank 5-for-6 from the line to seal the win.
“Josh is our ice-water guy in practice and the way we were shooting, we needed to put someone in that we could trust. He stepped up in a big way,” Browne said. “Trying to protect that lead, it was coming down to free throws and defense … those are the two things Josh does best.”
Behind Hopkins, Barry Evans finished with 14 points and Truth Norton and Ke’mari Simpson added 11 points apiece to the winning effort for Oakland Mills.
Kaden Bryan (12 points) joined Miller in double figures scoring for Marriotts Ridge. The Mustangs now slip a game behind Reservoir, which defeated Long Reach on Wednesday, in the standings.
Marriotts Ridge, Oakland Mills and Centennial all have four league losses and are still mathematically alive in the race for a county title. A Reservoir win over Glenelg on Friday would lock up the championship for the Gators.
Regardless of what happens in that game, though, Brady says its imperative that his group refocuses for its regular-season finale against Mt. Hebron (1-20).
“Throw records out the window, Friday night on their senior night is going to be anything but a walk in the park. So it’s up to us to pull together and respond,” he said. “It will say a lot about who we are as a team how we come out on Friday.”
The Gators held off a second-half push from the visiting Lightning to earn the win and take over sole possession of first place in the county standings with one game to go. Bobby Hill (22 points), Jaylen Manning (18) and Kaleb Glasper (17) all had huge games offensively for Reservoir.
The Gators close the regular season on the road Friday against Glenelg.
Darelle Raymond led the way with a season high 21 points for Long Reach, which got as close as one point during the third quarter before Reservoir separated itself again to seal the victory.
Re (12-3, 16-4): Hill 22, Manning 18, Glasper 17, Saunderson 6, Jerry 2.
LR (2-13, 5-16): Raymond 21, Addo 12, Brown 4, Zaky 4, Olivis 4, Sims 2, Yarbough 2, Oduro-Dompre 2.
Half: 29-21 Re.
Centennial 65, Glenelg 37
The Eagles kept their county-title hopes alive, cruising to the win over the Gladiators to remain one game behind Reservoir in the league standings. Joey Sedlacko scored a game-high 22 points for a Centennial team that opened up a 32-17 lead at the half and increased that advantage to 20 points by the end of the third quarter.
Nick Marshall scored 10 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Hawks prevail in a low-scoring game for the team’s fourth straight county win. Jackson Graves added nine points to the winning effort, with River Hill winning after trailing the Wildecats by eight, 38-30, entering the fourth quarter.
The Lions won their second straight county game and third straight game overall, getting big games from Cooper Haberern (19 points) and Darrion Harris (17) to lead the way. Nine different Howard players ended up scoring at least two points.