Senior Mister Hairston talks about the Scorpions’ 70-65 home win over River Hill on Feb. 13. (Kyle Stackpole / BSMG staff)
Moments before Oakland Mills boys basketball’s 70-65 home win on Tuesday night, coach Jon Browne talked to his team about the finality of senior seasons. The six Scorpions seniors were only guaranteed three more games: Tuesday’s tilt with River Hill, a home contest against Marriotts Ridge and a 2A South, Section I playoff contest.
In less than two weeks, their high school careers could be over.
That message gave this group a sense of urgency, senior Mister Hairston said, and resulted in the veteran players “playing the game like it was our last.” Their mindset boded well for Oakland Mills, which received solid performances from three secondary offensive contributors, all seniors, in a five-point comeback win over the best team in the county.
“You know what the studs are going to give you,” Browne said. “It’s the guys who aren’t. What are they going to give us? Which one of those guys is going to rise to the top? And we’ve been fortunate enough that that’s been happening lately.”
The Scorpions’ most reliable scorers — junior guard Daeshawn Eaton and senior Robert Burgess — combined for just 15 points, and five of those came on free throws from Eaton late in the game. Neither player scored in the first half.
Instead, Hairston “went bananas,” pouring in a career-high 17 points. Senior Ke'von Simpson added 14 points, including an emphatic dunk that gave Oakland Mills just its second lead with about four minutes remaining. And senior center Harrison Greggs (15 points) continued his stellar play down low.
The Scorpions (12-3 county, 16-4 overall) have now won eight straight games and 11 of their past 12 and sit one game behind River Hill (13-2, 18-3) entering both teams’ league finale Thursday afternoon. Should the Hawks lose to Glenelg and the Scorpions beat Marriotts Ridge, they’ll share the county title.
“The development of them has catapulted us into the position that we’re in and the win streak that we’re on,” Browne said.
However, that winning streak was in serious danger for much of Senior Night, especially in the first half when River Hill seemingly couldn’t miss. It sliced through the Oakland Mills full-court press with ease, which led to wide open shots from behind the arc. In first quarter alone, they shot 5-for-7 from three-point range and poured in 26 points against one of the county’s top defenses.
With River Hill ahead by 11, the next few minutes belonged to senior guard Luke Champion. He scored the Hawks first nine points of the second period — he finished with a game-high 23 points — to increase his team’s lead to double-digits. Oakland Mills responded with a 3-pointer but then allowed a Champion jumper and a Jaden Martin layup before Browne decided he had seen enough.
His team trailed, 39-25, with 3:46 to play in the first half.
The Scorpions were shell-shocked, Browne admitted, but understood the game remained within reach. They focused on “nibbling” at the deficit before intermission with the ultimate hope of pulling within single digits, and they executed that by clamping down defensively. River Hill, which held a 39-31 halftime lead, did not score after Browne’s timeout.
“Coach was telling us that we needed to find the shooters,” Hairston said. “Close out on the shooters and make sure we’re all on our man and not sagging too much.”
Oakland Mills switched to a man-to-man defense in the second half, and while River Hill began the third quarter with three consecutive layups, the move proved more and more effective as the game progressed.
River Hill scored nine points in the fourth quarter compared to the Scorpions’ 20.
“We expended way too much energy in the first half building a decent lead,” coach Matt Graves said. “It was fool’s gold. It’s hard to be that efficient for four straight quarters and shoot those kind of percentages. So, in turn, I think we just wore down, they made shots when they needed to make shots, we hurried too much on offense. We weren’t as relaxed as we should have been.”
There’s also the defensive rebounding issues, a season-long problem that allowed Oakland Mills to dominate in second-chance points Tuesday night.
To Graves, the woes are nothing more than a mentality the Hawks must bring Thursday against Glenelg and then into the postseason.
“Ninety percent is going and doing it, and 10 percent is actually doing the fundamentals of how to box out,” Graves added. “It’s the kids wanting and having the desire to go rebound.”
Oakland Mills (12-3 county, 16-4 overall) — 70, River Hill (13-2, 18-3) — 65
After losing four of its past five games, Wilde Lake received big performances from senior PJ Joseph and junior Trea Keys in its tight home win over Glenelg. The game swung back and fourth until the fourth quarter, when the Wildecats held a 16-11 scoring advantage.
Senior Ryan Davis and junior Johnny Piwowarski led the Gladiators with 14 points apiece.
WL — Keys 19, Joseph 16, Hunter 8, Marshall 5, Mitchell 5, Van Tassel 2.
G — Davis 14, Piwowarski 14, Mills 8, Heigh 4, Dick 6, Boswell 4, Chappell 4.
Half: 36-33, WL
Glenelg 64, Westminster 40 (Monday)
G — Davis 19, Piwowarski 13, Mills 12, Heigh 5, Saglimbeni 5, Chappell 2, Dick 2, Koele 2, Onwumbiko 2, Soltis 2.
Half: 19-18, Westminster
Chapelgate (4-10 MIAA B Conference, 14-15) — 71, Coppin Academy 68 (Monday)
Behind a monster game from senior guard Blake Hatcher, Chapelgate held off Coppin Academy for a Senior Night victory.
Hatches exploded for 29 points for the Yellowjackets, which had four players scored in double figures.
The win keeps Chapelgate’s hopes of a winning season alive. It ends the regular season with Gerstell on Wednesday and St. John's Catholic Prep on Friday.
Hammond picked up its first win in nearly a month by pulling away from Marriotts Ridge in the second half.
The Golden Bears entered the game on an eight-game losing streak — their last victory came against Howard on Jan. 19 — but they wouldn’t be denied Tuesday night. Senior Robert Gordon (24 points) shouldered the scoring load, but junior Micah Henry and senior Cameron Stallings chipped in as well by combining to score 21 points.
As for Marriotts Ridge, the offensive struggles continued. The Mustangs have not scored more than 53 points during their current four-game losing streak.
Ha — Gordon 24, Henry 13, Stallings 9, Bourne 8, Miller 6, Aodu 3, Poku 3, Burgess 2, Edwards 2, Evans 2.
MR — Lee 13, Cole Brown 10, Held 7, Brennan 6, Ingersoll 6, Stepke 4, Lay 2, Liitle 2, Snell 2, Ross 1.
Half: 32-25, Ha
Calvert Hall — 68, Glenelg Country (3-12 MIAA A Conference, 6-16) — 61 (Monday)
GCS — Owen 18, Chase Paar 15, Hornatko 13, Charles 6, Swartz 4, Oates 3, Robinson 2.