Coming off a slow start during its playoff opener against Liberty, one which saw the team score just 19 first-half points, Oakland Mills was a team on a mission at the onset of its 2A West regional semifinal game against Winters Mill on Wednesday night.
The Scorpions strung together a 17-2 run in the opening six minutes, creating a double-digit lead it never lost the rest of the way en route to a convincing 82-48 victory over the visiting Falcons.
"I don't think I can ask for us to play any better than that, with any more energy or intensity. That was everything that we wanted right from the beginning until the very end," Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne said. "We probably haven't played a four-quarter game like that all season. It's playoffs, that's a strong (Winters Mill) team over there, so to see that kind of effort … it was just tremendous."
Daniel Kiely poured in a team-high 27 points, Larry Aaron (career-high 21 points) and Naquan Williams-Day (17) were right behind him, and Oakland Mills (22-2) advanced into a region championship match-up against Middletown — a 62-52 winner over Williamsport in the other semifinal— on Friday night.
Kiely said the Scorpions have flipped things into a different gear now that it's the postseason.
"We're real focused, probably more than ever right now. We want to go back to Xfinity and get another state championship," he said. "We're still having a lot of fun, though."
Winters Mill was led by Braedon Dorsey's 16 points, all coming in the opening three quarters.
Off the opening tip, Oakland Mills scored on its first possession courtesy of a 3-pointer from Jordan Campbell. Tre Hopkins (8 points) followed with a steal and lay-up and the Scorpions were on their way.
After Keon Claiborne put Winters Mill on the board, Aaron began taking over. The Oakland Mills big man proceeded to score nine of the game's next 12 points to help his team open up a 15-point advantage.
"Before the game, coach was working with me the whole time … working on my post moves, my jumper and my free throws," Aaron said. "It really got me ready to go tonight to go out there and get some points."
Oakland Mills was up 21-8 at the end of the first quarter and extended its lead to 21, 41-20, by halftime.
Winters Mill, which also got 11 points from Tre Woodyard, simply never could string any runs together. The Falcons never scored more than two baskets in a row and that prevented their ability to claw their way back.
With Oakland Mills on the verge of officially putting the game away, Kiely exerted his will to open the fourth quarter. The senior guard scored 12 straight Scorpions points to open the period and then later added an exclamation point with an emphatic dunk before exiting the game.
"Coach Browne pulled me over …. and told me to just take over," Kiely said. "(He said) we've got to push it and just end it right here."
Moving forward, as it tries to defend its 2A state championship from last season, Oakland Mills is now playing with plenty of confidence, according to Browne.
"We needed a game like that … that playoff mentality and a performance where we showed that we are who we think we are. So I'm very happy right now," he said. "At the end of the day, though, it's just one more piece closer and regional finals are nothing to take lightly — certainly not over here with our history. But we're excited to have a chance to be a part of it again."
Oakland Mills 82, Winters Mill 48
OM (22-2): Kiely 27, Aaron 21, Williams-Day 17, T. Hopkins 8, Rondon 4, Campbell 3, McFadden 2.
WM: Dorsey 16, Woodyard 11, Eysamen 8, Witt 7, Claiborne 4, Paylor 2.
Half: 41-20 OM.
Centennial 58, Wilde Lake 42 (3A East section I finals)
Read full game story: HERE
C (13-6, 17-7): Brown 16, White 13, Addisu 12, Fowler 7, Merkey 6, Fant 3, Williams 1.
WL (6-13, 8-17): Boateng 12, Ichrist 10, Stubblefield 9, Keys 7, Cantwell 4.
Half: 26-23 WL.
Springbrook 92, Howard 51 (4A North)
Falu Seck exploded for 47 points and the visiting Blue Devils led from start to finish against the Lions. Springbrook was up a comfortable seven points, 16-9, at the end of the first quarter, before outscoring Howard 30-7 in the second quarter to break things wide open.
George Greene led the way in the loss for Howard with 29 points.
S: Seck 47, Galvin 15, Boyd 11, Dyson 8, Addo 4, Dancy 3, Escobar 3, Balane 1.
Ho (9-10, 14-11): Green 29, Shuart 7, Dawkins 7, Scaife 4, Hawkins 2, Hastings 2.
Half: 46-16 S.