Playing for the second time in less than 24 hours, Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne said his guys "were flat and lethargic," from the start of its game Saturday against visiting Wilde Lake.
Yet, for as slow as things may have been at the beginning for the Scorpions against the Wildecats, it was the finish that was the deciding factor in a convincing 91-66 victory that secures the program sole possession of this year's county championship — the first for the team since the 2012-13 season.
Following an eventful fourth quarter that saw Oakland Mills (18-1, 20-2) explode for 35 points and senior Daniel Kiely score the 1,000th point of his career, the Scorpions were able to celebrate.
"Definitely not our best game, far from it to be honest, but at the end of the day we get the thing that had eluded us two years in a row by a game. So, yeah, it's big," Browne said. "It's something we wanted to bring back home and put in the trophy case, so that's exciting."
For Kiely, who was pulled up very late in the season as a freshman on the last Oakland Mills team to win a county title, he said it was special to get one with this group.
"This was the goal … to win a Howard County Championship," Kiely said. "We wanted it really bad, it wasn't like we didn't want it. And we did it through all the hard work we put in this season."
Oakland Mills never trailed in the game, starting things on a 13-4 run that was punctuated by a lay-up from Naquan Williams-Day (career-high 32 points) with 3:55 to go in the first quarter.
But Wilde Lake (5-13, 5-16) began clawing back behind some inspired play from Kyle Ichrist, who finished the night with a career-high 35 points of his own. The Wildecats got themselves within six, 18-12, at the end of the first quarter and was within single digits for the majority of the second quarter.
"I guess it was hard for them to maintain that high level of emotion from last night, because we just were not ourselves. We were hesitant on defense, allowed penetration early and they got so many easy baskets. It was frustrating really and we let them hang around," Browne said.
It took back-to-back lay-ups from Kiely (20 points) and Williams-Day in the final minute of the second quarter to help Oakland Mills extend its cushion to 12 going into the half.
The margin was the same early in the third when a potentially scary moment occurred for the Scorpions, as Kiely went down with an apparent ankle injury. He was helped off the floor and spent several minutes on the end of the bench being looked at by the training staff.
With him off the floor, Wilde Lake cut its deficit down to 10 on two different occasions. But late in the third quarter, after testing things out in the hallway, Kiely decided he felt strong enough to return to the floor.
"I was like, 'I have to get back in the game.' It was too close for me to stay out the whole time," Kiely said.
With its point guard back, Oakland Mills found another gear in the fourth quarter. Needing just six more points to reach the 1,000-point mark, Kiely proceeded to hit a three and make a lay-up in the first minute of the third quarter and forced a timeout by Wilde Lake as the lead had ballooned up to 20, 64-44.
"Daniel checks back in and a calmness comes over the gym," Browne said. "I actually told them during the break before the fourth quarter that Daniel only needed 6 more points for 1,000 and maybe that sparked them a little bit to getting their groove back."
Out of the timeout, on the team's very next possession, Kiely was fouled going to the rim and converted from the line to secure the milestone point.
"It was real special. I thank Coach Browne ... the four years I've been here he's been a real good coach and it was just real special to share it with him and the team," Kiely said. "It was a real emotional moment."
Oakland Mills ended up starting the fourth quarter on a 20-6 run overall and never looked back the rest of the way.
On top of the big efforts from Williams-Day and Kiely, Larry Aaron also finished in double figures with 11 points.
Oakland Mills is now off until playoffs, where the team will be the top seed in the 2A West region.
Oakland Mills 91, Wilde Lake 66
OM (18-1, 20-2): Williams-Day 32, Kiely 20, Aaron 11, Campbell 7, Wheelock 6, J. Hopkins 4, T. Hopkins 4, Tarver 3, Estep 2, Harris 2.
WL (5-13, 5-16): Ichrist 35, Samuels 12, Robinson 4, Cromartie 4, Greene 4, Cantwell 3, Barnes 2, David 2.
Half: 41-29 OM.
Centennial 58, Reservoir 55
Centennial senior Tom Brown reached 1,000 points for his career in the third quarter and Elijah White finished with a game-high 18 points to help lead the Eagles to the victory.
C (12-6, 14-7): White 18, Brown 12, Fowler 8, Williams 5, Addisu 5, Fant 3, Merkey 3, Hohmann 3, Smith 2, Merkey 1.
Re (8-11, 9-13): Winters 11, G. Garcia 10, Ricketts 9, Phillips 7, Carey 7, Akinbinu 6, J. Garcia 3, Archampong 2.
Half: 37-31 C.
Hammond 67, Howard 49
The Golden Bears earned the comfortable road victory behind double-digit scoring efforts from Brandon Willis (19 points), Matt Johnson (16) and Jarvis Doles (12).
Ha (16-2, 18-3): Willis 19, Johnson 16, Doles 12, Lamar 9, Ridgell 6, Gordon 5.
Ho (9-10, 12-10): Dawkins 15, Greene 14, Scates 9, Scaife 4, Hawkins 3, Shuart 3, Hastings 1.
Long Reach 46, River Hill 45
The Lightning snapped a three-game losing skid with the victory, edging the Hawks in a low-scoring affair. Andre Broadnax led the way with 19 points on the strength of three 3-pointers, while Ryan Menusan chipped in with a double-double (11 points and 10 rebounds).
River Hill had a chance to win the game in the final 10 seconds, but the team's shot was off the mark and Long Reach secured the rebound to run out the clock. Jay Martin led the Hawks with 15 points on the night.
LR (10-9, 11-11): Brodnax 19, Menusan 11, Morgan 7, Chad Brown 5, Dix 2, Parham 2,
RH (4-14, 5-16): Martin 15, DeSimone 8, Mitchell 8, Daniels 7, Isaac 4, Krause 3.
Half: 30-25 LR.
Atholton 48, Marriotts Ridge 44
Cole Mason led the way in the win with 12 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals to help the Raiders earn the victory on the road. Marriotts Ridge was ahead 21-20 at the half.