Andre Brooks hit a miracle shot at the buzzer to give Oakland Mills coach Dave Appleby his 300th victory and send a raucous Scorpions' crowd into pandemonium last night.
After Howard tied the score at 72-72 on a driving shot by Delorean Hamilton with five seconds left, the Scorpions called timeout. The inbounds pass went to Brooks, who dribbled down the left side, cut back to the middle and, guarded by three Howard players, unleashed an off-balance jumper that swished through the net for the 74-72 victory.
"Andre is our star player, and that's what star players do: They deliver at the end. This will be great for his confidence," Appleby said.
Brooks scored 22 points and had 10 rebounds, and teammate Greg Braukus had 19 points and 10 rebounds.
"I just tried to push the ball and get the best shot I could," Brooks said. "It was nerve-wracking, but we got the job done. It felt good to be on the winning side of a close game and to get Coach Appleby his 300th win. This was our best crowd of the year, and it gave us a lot of energy and pumped us up."
Braukus kept the Scorpions close in the first half with his inside play, but the Lions still led 35-29 at halftime, thanks to Brandon Gregory (20 points) and Paul Thompson (20).
"I thought our three-point shooting made the difference in this game," Braukus said. "C.J. King and Varnaz Nicholson hit some huge threes for us."
Oakland Mills (7-9, 6-6 Howard County) made eight three-pointers, and King and Nicholson each shot 3-for-8 from that range. Overall, Oakland Mills shot 8-for-24 beyond the arc.
"It was surprising to see all the hoopla over 300," said Appleby, a 20-year veteran at Oakland Mills, who was presented with a commemorative 300th victory plaque after the game. "The team played with energy, heart, hustle and determination, and that's been a winning formula at Oakland Mills for 20 years. I'm happy the night turned out the way it did for everybody. These are the kind of games that make coaching special. You just can't get this kind of rush anywhere else. It's powerful."
The Scorpions had a big edge at the foul line, going 18-for-24 while Howard (8-9, 6-7) was 6-for-11 at the line. But Oakland Mills was just 3-for-6 at the line in the final 43 seconds.
The teams traded points in an exciting fourth quarter when neither team got more than a four-point lead. There were four ties and five lead changes in the period.
"February is when you want to play well, and we're hitting our stride now," Appleby said.