Oakland Mills nearly ran Mount Hebron off the court early in yesterday's much-awaited first-place showdown.
The Vikings rallied strongly in the second half, however, before losing to the visiting Scorpions, 71-64.
Showing little rust after a 10-day period with no games and two practices, the Scorpions (9-3 overall, 7-1 league) capitalized on 18 Vikings turnovers in the first half to bolt to a 16-point halftime lead.
Oakland Mills, coming off its only league loss, made 17 of 35 shots from the field in the half and played well defensively inside, holding Mount Hebron (7-3, 6-2) to 16 shots.
Mount Hebron, which played a 3-2 zone in the first half, fared much better with its second-half man-to-man defense, which helped force 20 Oakland Mills turnovers.
Oakland Mills, despite 32 turnovers overall, upped its lead to 24 points midway through the third.
Oakland Mills' Murray Graves, who led all scorers with 29 points, dunked twice early in the third, adding emphasis to the Scorpions' domination.
"After losing to Glenelg in our last game we wanted to prove we're still the best team in the county," Graves said. "We've had a long time to think about that loss."
Right after Oakland Mills went up 52-28, and Scorpions coach Dave Appleby made some substitutions, Mount Hebron came to life.
Joey Armstead made two three-pointers to spark the Vikings on a 16-2 run that sliced the Oakland Mills lead to 56-50 early in the fourth period. Armstead, who was 5-for-6 from three-point range, scored 19 points and had five steals.
"Joey rarely takes a bad shot and has the green light to shoot anytime from anywhere," Vikings coach Scott Conroy said.
It was a close game the rest of the way. Oakland Mills' Myke Price (10 points) made a three-point basket to put his team ahead, 67-59.
Armstead hit a three-pointer with 35 seconds left, cutting the lead to 68-62.
Then Brian Williams, who led the Vikings with 24 points and 10 rebounds, had a chance to make it a one-possession game after he was fouled taking a three-point shot with 10 seconds left. He converted the first two free throws, making it 68-64, but missed the third.
Oakland Mills' Eric Breland (20 points) was fouled and made one free throw. Mount Hebron turned the ball over, and Graves ended the game with a tap-in at the buzzer.
Pub Date: 1/24/99