Oakland Mills sophomore Jazmine Washington talks about the Scorpions 30-27 victory over Centennial on Jan. 19.
Riding a three-game county losing streak, Oakland Mills coach Walt Hagins didn’t hold back when talking about how much Friday’s game against visiting Centennial meant.
“I’ll go on record saying this was a must win for us and I know there’s still a lot of season left, but we needed something to help us get our confidence back,”Hagins said. “We needed to play a game against a good team like Centennial and simply get back to playing our style of basketball which starts with strapping up defensively.”
Holding the Eagles to just six second-half points, Oakland Mills (6-3, 9-5) indeed got back to its roots on the defensive end of the floor and that set the stage for what ended up as a come-from-behind 30-27 victory. Aislynn Riggs notched a double double (11 points, 13 rebounds and 8 blocks) to lead the way for a Scorpions team that erased a 12-point deficit at the half.
Hagins said that while the comeback happened on the scoreboard in the third and fourth quarters, it was something that happened toward the end of the second quarter that convinced him his team wasn’t ready to stop fighting.
“One of the last possessions of that first half, ‘Big A’— Aislynn — looked at the other four on the floor after we didn’t get a 50-50 ball and said ‘hey we got this, let’s go.’ And then they huddled up and that’s something that wasn’t happening these last three games,” Hagins said. “We were down by six possessions at halftime, but I just kind of knew that the switch had been flipped and they were ready to get back to the team we were the first month of the season.”
Centennial (4-4, 7-6), which was led by Rasa Welsh (9 points) and Brook Anderson (6 points) on its way to a 21-9 lead at intermission, went ice cold from the field immediately to begin the third quarter. It took more than six minutes for the Eagles to score after halftime and a lay-up by Olivia Reese turned out to be the team’s only basket in the third period.
The drought opened the door for the Scorpions to start chipping away, cutting the Eagles lead to 23-18 heading into the fourth quarter. Then, with 2:50 left in regulation, Lillyann Eldridge completed the comeback by hitting a jumper as the shot clock expired to give Oakland Mills its first lead since the opening quarter.
“In the huddles we were just talking about giving them what they had been giving us,” said Oakland Mills sophomore Jazmine Washington, who finished with five points and assisted on Eldridge’s go-ahead basket. “The turnovers, they had been getting from us, we just had to get them back.”
The Scorpions increased their advantage to three on another basket by Eldridge in the final minute, but Centennial still had one last chance to tie. After a timeout, Anderson got the ball on the wing in the final seconds looking to attempt a 3-point shot.
However, Riggs trapped her along the sideline and ended up getting her hands on the desperation attempt to help Oakland Mills secure the victory.
Centennial coach Rob Slopek said his team simply got away from the game plan that had allowed them to open up the lead in the first half.
“We reverted to trying to play one-on-one, and a ton of credit to the Oakland Mills’ defense for forcing us to play their style,”Slopek said. “We are at our best when we are sharing the basketball, having five people touching the ball, but we simply stopped moving the ball. We never were able to make the adjustments we needed to make.”
Afterward, Hagins acknowledged how it took a complete team effort to battle back. In particular, though, he praised the effort of Tyasia McDuffie, who returned to action after missing the previous three games while in concussion protocol to provide a spark.
“I can’t say enough about how much of a different team we are with her on the floor. She does so many things that don’t show up on a stat sheet, but they help win games,” Hagins said. “Tonight, it was her stepping up and guarding [Anderson] for them in the second half … allowing us to get out of our zone and start doing the things that we like to do.”
Emily Dorn scored a career-high 27 points, while also pulling down 10 rebounds and grabbing five steals, to lead the Gators to their fifth straight win. Nia Powell (16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) also had a big game.
Other strong contributors were Hydeinah Moore (7 rebounds, 4 assists), Natalie Verna (8 assists) and Jenni Fourney (3 assists).
“Late second quarter we came alive with 21 points,”Reservoir coach Deb Taylor said. “In the third quarter, Marriotts Ridge hung tough and got it to within five, but we turned up our defense and finally controlled the boards. We were up 17 with under three minutes to go and that’s when we took the starters out.”
Re (5-3, 6-6): Dorn 27, Powell 16, Moore 5, Abunassar 4, Fourney 2, Verna 2, Bailey 2, Hooker 1.