Long Reach's Zack Hines can smell the finish line.
The senior is nearing the end of his high school career and is playing by far his best ball.
On senior night at Long Reach last night against neighborhood rival Oakland Mills, he scored his third straight double double and led the Lightning to a 37-34 victory that gave No. 13 Long Reach its first undisputed county title and second overall. The win ended Atholton's hope of tying for the title.
Oakland Mills took the final shot, but Alex Douyon's three-point attempt rolled out at the buzzer. Douyon scored 22 points for the Scorpions.
Hines, 6 feet 5, scored 12 points and had 12 rebounds, and compensated for Oakland Mills shutting down leading scorer Mike Smelkinson, who was averaging 18.7 points. Smelkinson, who broke 1,000 points last week, was held scoreless for the first time in his varsity career.
"They didn't know what to expect from me, because I didn't play the first game against them," said Hines, who sprained an ankle early in the third quarter but kept playing in the regular-season finale. "I knew Oakland Mills would be quick, scrappy and not afraid to shoot. They were leaving the middle and the baseline open, but we didn't take advantage of it."
Long Reach (18-4 overall, 17-3 league) won the first meeting between the teams, 46-44.
Hines scored eight points in the first quarter - three of the four baskets coming off put-backs as the Lightning had a decided height advantage over Oakland Mills. With his ankle bothering him, Hines didn't score in the fourth quarter.
"He had a great practice yesterday and is coming into his potential," said Long Reach coach Al Moraz.
Oakland Mills (7-12, 7-12) played a box-and-one on Smelkinson, and Scorpions shooting guard Bryce Gaeng was superb defensively. Gaeng and Douyon are Oakland Mills' only seniors.
"Bryce was my first friend in nursery school and we're still friends," said Smelkinson, a 5-5 point guard who has a full scholarship to California of Pennsylvania. "Once I gave up the ball he prevented me from getting it back. I never got any good looks."
Smelkinson scored 19 the first time the teams played, when Oakland Mills used a 2-3 defense.
"We've had six or seven box-and-ones played against us before," said Moraz. "But none of them worked. Oakland Mills played inspired. But it's nice to still win without your leading scorer getting a point."
Hines got help from 6-5 Brian Chesnut, who scored 10 points and had six rebounds. Trent Covington continued to shoot well for Long Reach, going 3-for-7 with six points.
NOTE: Because it played in an unsanctioned Baltimore City holiday tournament, Howard High has played its maximum number of 20 games and will not be allowed to play its final two regularly scheduled games this week against Centennial and Hammond. The games will count as wins for those schools and as no-contests for Howard.