HOWARD COUNTY, MD — As Frederick Eiland II sprinted downcourt to receive a pass in the final seconds of overtime Wednesday night, Ke’von Simpson was not far behind him. If Eiland missed or had his shot blocked, Simpson knew he needed to be there for a putback opportunity. Oakland Mills’ fate in the 2A South, Section I final depended on it.
Sure enough, Eiland’s layup attempt caromed off the backboard and bounced off the rim. And sure enough, Simpson was right there to follow his shot.
With about three seconds to play in overtime and Oakland Mills and River Hill tied at 59, Simpson grabbed the ball with two hands near the rim and swiftly floated a right-handed attempt just over the front iron. Moments later, the rest of his teammates, coaches and seemingly every Scorpions’ fan in the gym joined him near midcourt to celebrate. The Scorpions were headed to the regional championship.
“I was scared, I’m not going to lie,” Simpson said of his mindset in the final seconds. “I was real scared. I was like, ‘Oh come on, we’ve got to do something. I don’t want to go to another overtime.’
“I just had to go up, and that’s what I did. I followed him up and I just had to do what I had to do.”
Oakland Mills (19-5 overall) will now travel to Thomas Stone for the 2A South final on Friday night. With a win there, the Scorpions would secure their first region title since 2015 — the same year they won the program’s last state championship.
Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne declined to comment after the game.
Before forcing overtime, River Hill (16-8) had to overcome a double-digit deficit stemming from a putrid first quarter in which it scored six points and allowed 22. But in the following periods the Hawks chipped away at the deficit. They outscored the Scorpions by seven in the second quarter to enter halftime down, 33-24, and beat the hosts by five points in the third quarter to pull within 42-38. And with fewer than four minutes to play, the game was deadlocked at 47.
After a mini 5-0 Oakland Mills run — capped by a smooth step-back 3-pointer from Truth Norton — River Hill immediately responded with a triple from Josh O’Brien but could not pull any closer the next few minutes. Finally, with less than 10 seconds to go, sophomore Nick Marshall (game-high 17 points) came through with a hanging layup. To overtime they went tied at 52.
Ryan Marshall (14 points) started the scoring in overtime before Daeshawn Eaton (nine points) knotted the score shortly thereafter. The Marshall brothers then traded back-to-back baskets, followed by an Eaton conversion, making it 58-56 River Hill with 38.1 seconds left.
Hawks point guard Jackson Graves proceeded to split a pair of free throws, which opened the door for Norton (nine points) to drill another 3-pointer from the corner to tie the game.
“The coaches tell me to shoot every single time,” Norton said. “Even if I’m at the volleyball line, they tell me to shoot the ball.”
The ball went back over to River Hill, which put its season in the hands of Nick Marshall with the clock winding down. But as Marshall drove towards the basket, Barry Evans poked the ball away from behind, and it bounced right to Eaton. Following two dribbles, he launched a precise chest pass ahead to Eiland, who set up the most exciting finish of Oakland Mills’ season.
“I don’t know how I feel,” Simpson said. “I just want to go all the way.”
Oakland Mills (19-5 overall) — 61, River Hill (16-8) — 59 (F/OT)
OM — Hopkins 17, Simpson 14, Eaton 9, Norton 9, Evans 7, Eiland II 3, Riggs 2.
RH — Nick Marshall 21, Ryan Marshall 14, O’Brien 7, Okojie 7, Feeney 5, Graves 5.
Halftime: 33-24, OM