A gimmick defense, some timely three-point shooting and a basket at the buzzer by Tommy Dispenza allowed Hammond to rally from 13 points down late in the third quarter and beat Oakland Mills, 50-48, yesterday.
With the victory, the No. 13 Bears (12-3 overall, 6-1 league) held on to a share of first place in Howard County, extended its winning streak to six and ended a string of four straight losses to the Scorpions.
"They say that the road to the county championship goes through Oakland Mills, so we needed to win today after losing to them at our place," Hammond guard Tim Spruill said.
Spruill scored six points, had seven rebounds and four assists. His hustle set up the winning basket.
It was the third league loss for Oakland Mills (6-6, 4-3) and second straight. The Scorpions also lost by two points to Mount Hebron last Friday.
"This was a big win for us, because they'll beat a lot of teams down the stretch," said Hammond center Karl Friedheim (nine points, eight rebounds).
Hammond trailed 40-27 late in the third quarter, after Irving Conwell (22 points, eight rebounds) sank two free throws. Those were his last points of the game.
After Conwell scored 17 points in the first half, the Bears played a diamond-and-one defense against him in the second half. Conwell, the league's top scorer with a 25-point average, rarely touched the ball in the fourth quarter and aggravated a back injury.
As Oakland Mills' go-to man, he had a chance to win the game with six seconds left when he flashed open in the lane. But his jumper missed its mark and Tom Salkeld rebounded for Hammond.
Salkeld's pass to Spruill threatened to go out of bounds, but Spruill, in a highly athletic move, saved the ball and threw it up off the backboard. Dispenza rebounded and scored at the buzzer.
Dispenza (13 points) and Salkeld (six points, 10 rebounds) both played key roles in Hammond's comeback. Dispenza also sank a three-pointer at the end of the third quarter, and another early in the fourth quarter.
Salkeld missed the second period after turning an ankle, and the Bears scored two points that quarter.
But Salkeld settled the team down in the second half and was a major factor on the boards.
Oakland Mills' Jake Coleman (14 points, eight rebounds) had a career-best game off the bench. He scored all six of Oakland Mills' fourth-quarter points and sank two free throws for a 48-46 lead.