His team trailing at the half for only the third time all season on the road against Howard Monday evening, Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne kept his message extremely simple.
"We were in there for only like two minutes and all I said was that we weren't doing what we do best and that is play defense with energy and force them into turnovers. (Howard) had a good game plan and was taking us out of what we wanted to do, but we were also playing into that," Browne said. "It was good, though. We were getting tested, and it was up to us to respond to that."
The message was heard loud and clear. A Scorpions team that had been forced to play at the Lions' pace in the first half, immediately sped things up to begin the third quarter and put together a 9-0 run to grab a lead it never surrendered the rest of the way en route to a convincing 69-51 victory.
Daniel Kiely (22 points), Tre Hopkins (12), Larry Aaron (12) and Naquan Williams-Day (11) all scored in double figures in the win.
Oakland Mills (14-0, 16-1) remains the lone undefeated team in Howard County play this winter, holding a two-game lead on second-place Hammond (11-2, 13-3) and a five-game lead on the third-place duo of Howard (9-5, 12-5) and Centennial (8-5, 10-6) in the league standings.
In a season, though, where the Scorpions have been dismantling their opposition — winning eight games by 24 points or more — the Lions truly had the county leaders on their heels in the opening half.
Motivated to prove that its loss by 35 points against Oakland Mills during the first week of the season was a fluke, Howard exploded out of the gates behind the trio of Bryce Shuart (21 points), George Greene (17) and DJ Dawkins to take a quick 9-3 lead.
By the end of the first quarter, the Lions were ahead by five, 19-14.
"We knew that they had been playing well and we knew that when we played them the first time that it wasn't their best game, so we knew they were going to come out a lot better and a lot more prepared," said Kiely, who ultimately played a key role in his team's comeback both as a scorer and distributor. "They knew how we kind of play now and they were going to be ready for us."
Howard, which was thriving with a patient, deliberate half-court offense that was working for open jumpers or quality shots going toward the rim, kept pushing to open the second quarter.
Following a 3-pointer by Shuart with 4:30 left in the opening half, the Lions held their largest lead of the game, 28-18.
"We wanted to extend our offensive possessions as long as possible … force them into playing a little man and take good shots. For the most part, we did all those things pretty well in the first half," Howard coach Seth Willingham said. "We really hung in there, got them a little uncomfortable I thought."
Yet, for as well as Howard was playing, Oakland Mills managed to generate a little momentum heading into the intermission courtesy of a tip-in by Williams-Day as time expired to trim the team's deficit to just four, 33-29.
Then, in classic Oakland Mills fashion, the Scorpions turned things up defensively immediately out of the break to go on the decisive run. Williams-Day started things with a three and then Shawn Harris (9 points) and Aaron each got into the act as well to turn a four-point deficit into a five-point lead.
"We basically talked about how we were playing bad, really bad, and we were only down by four. So we knew that if we picked up, played the way we usually play, then everything would kind of set into place and we would come out with the (win)," Kiely said.
Willingham said it's stretches like that one to open the second half, taking less than two minutes, which make Oakland Mills so good.
"They have that scent in the water mentality where they get a turnover or two and then all of a sudden in a blink of an eye you've given up 10 points," he said. "We talked about eliminating those things, keeping them from getting easy baskets — and we had done that in first half. But they just keep coming and we had a lapse there."
While Howard never saw the lead again, it did hang around until the early stages of the final quarter. Following a lay-up by Tanner Scaife (8 points) with 6:11 left, the Lions were within five, 51-46.
However, from that point on, Oakland Mills closed the game on an 18-5 run to create the final margin of victory.
The Scorpions are back in action for another big game on the road Wednesday against Hammond. The first time the two teams played, Oakland Mills won by six, 91-85.
Oakland Mills 69, Howard 51
OM (14-0, 16-1): Kiely 21, Aaron 12, Hopkins 12, Williams-Day 11, Harris 9, Smith 2, Campbell 1.
Ho (9-5, 12-5): Shuart 21, Greene 17, Scaife 8, Dawkins 5.
Half: 33-29 Ho.
Long Reach 62, Reservoir 61 OT
The Lightning won a back-and-forth game that featured a little bit of everything, including a buzzer-beating three to force overtime by Reservoir's Kevin Miller and then two game-winning free throws by Long Reach's Tre Morgan in the final second of the extra period.
Andre Brodnax and Chad Brown each had 18 points to lead the Long Reach, which has now won six games in a row to improve to 9-6 county play this winter. Morgan also added 12 points and 13 rebounds.
"The way it went down at the end was pretty nuts, but Tre hit two free throws at the end to seal the victory for us," Long Reach coach Al Moraz Jr. said. "It's our sixth straight and we got it done on the road."
Judge Payne led Reservoir in the loss with 18 points of his own.
LR (9-6, 10-8): Brodnax 18, Chad Brown 18, Morgan 12, Menusan 8, Dix 6.
Re (6-9, 7-11): Payne 18, Phillips 14, Miller 8, Winters 7, Omorgbe 4, Weith 4, Garcia 3, Archampong 1.
Half 31-24 Re; Regulation: 56-56.
Meade 65, Glenelg 47
Tristan Easton scored a game-high 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had four assists to lead the Mustangs past the Gladiators in a non-county contest.
M (13-3): Easton 17, Duffin 15, Elder 10, Qualls 8, Williams 5, Cunningham 2, Wells 2, Black 2, Lyles 2, Huff 2.
G: (7-6, 8-8): Winn 19, Currie 11, Powell 6, Davis 3, Taylor 2, Coburn 2, Mills 2, Piwowarski 2.
Severn 47, Chapelgate 40
S: Burch 3, Hall 2, Owens 23, Butler 6, K. Dennin 7, Damison 2, T. Dennin 2.
CCA (7-11, 9-19): Mitchell 10, Ball 7, Murphy 8, McEachin 2, Tringali 3, McCray 5, Marvin 3, Hatcher 2.