Daeshawn Eaton can score in a variety of ways, and he showed as much for Oakland Mills boys basketball last season.
He weaved into the lane and finished at the rim. He came off screens and drilled 3-pointers. If he missed a shot, it was probably because a defender fouled him, and in that case he would redeem himself with swishes at the free throw line. His scoring versatility earned him the county scoring title with an average of 17.1 points per game in addition to first-team All-County honors.
But amid all of the scoring, Eaton never dunked. It wasn’t that he couldn’t. He just decided not to try.
That changed during the first game of his senior campaign, a 67-52 Scorpions’ home win over Catonsville on Thursday night. Thirty seconds into the second half, Eaton corralled one of his seven steals and saw no one between him and the rim, so he took a few dribbles, rose and flushed a one-handed slam to ignite the crowd. Normally unemotional, Eaton flashed a smile and hopped around as he assumed his defensive position.
“It felt very good,” Eaton said modestly. “Very good.”
A year after dropping 28 points in a win over the Comets, Eaton went off for 31 points to carry the Scorpions to a comfortable season-opening victory.
“The kid’s tremendous,” coach Jon Browne said. “It was effortless tonight on his part. A lot of steals, a lot of easy buckets at the rim. His arms, hands, he just anticipates so well. But that’s innate. I can’t teach that.”
Aside from Eaton, who made three 3-pointers and hit six of his seven foul shots, Oakland Mills received most of its offensive production from its starting lineup. Sophomore forward Dooley Riggs, making his first-career start, added eight points, while senior guard Frederick Eiland II and Jaelen Gaymon chipped in seven points apiece. The Scorpions’ fifth starter, senior Ke’von Simpson, dealt with foul trouble all game but managed five points.
Dashawn Dixon (16 points) and Kelvin Sprull (11 points) led a Comets squad doomed by turnovers and a slow start.
“Our goal this year is to play hard and to play smart,” first-year coach Dennis Kiehm said. “For the first game, the kids played hard. Can’t say we played smart. We came out early, we fell behind by 10 or 11 within the first nine minutes, and then we started figuring it out, and we played evenly with a very good team.”
Full-court pressure allowed Oakland Mills (0-0 county, 1-0 overall) to commit five steals in the opening five minutes and jump out to a 16-3 advantage. Catonsville cut that lead to 21-10 by the end of the first quarter and came with six points midway through the second, but carelessness and poor defensive transition allowed the Scorpions to end the half on a 9-2 run and go up, 33-20.
Eatons’ kept his team ahead by double digits in the third quarter thanks to the aforementioned dunk, a pair of free throws and three more steals. Riggs then flashed his offensive potential with two layups at the end of the period.
Browne praised the performances of his younger players and for good reason, as Dooley provided interior scoring and junior varsity call-ups Truth Norton (five points), Barry Aaron and DJ Hopkins gave the Scorpions some quality minutes off the bench. Not as much could be said about the seniors, who Browne said need to produce more as a group. He added the Scorpions’ shooting, defensive rebounding and zone defense also must improve going forward.
As for Eaton, who scored nearly of half of the team’s points on Thursday night, Browne offered one minor critique.
“The kid’s talented, and I just need him to be a little more vocal as a leader and that senior,” Browne said. “His game speaks for itself, but we really need to get more guys to follow his lead, and big things will happen to us.”
Oakland Mills — 67, Catonsville — 52
OM — Eaton 31, Riggs 8, Eiland II 7, Gaymon 7, Norton 5, Simpson 5, Jones 4.
Catonsville — Dixon 16, Sprull 11, Owens 9, Davis 4, Duola 4, Holmes 4, McInerney 4.
Halftime: 33-20, OM
Around the horn
River Hill (1-0) — 66, Tuscarora — 37
Two-time reigning county champion River Hill began its season with a 29-point win thanks to an unbelievable fourth-quarter run.
What was a 24-23 Hawks halftime advantage became 42-35 at the end of the third quarter, but Tuscarora was still within striking distance. Then came the final period, when the Hawks scored 24 points to Tuscarora’s two to begin the 2018-19 campaign with a blowout victory.
Mount Saint Joseph transfer Ryan Marshall scored a team-high 16 points and was one of three Hawks in double figures along with OJ Okojie and Ming Yu (13 points apiece). Coach Matt Graves said Jordan James and Josh O’Brien gave the Hawks quality minutes off the bench.
RH — Ryan Marshall 16, Okojie 13, Yu 13, Feeney 7, Nick Marshall 6, Graves 5, O’Brien 4, James 3.
Halftime: 24-23, RH
Largo — 83, Long Reach — 77
LR — Raymond Jr. 25, Modeste 14, Martin 13, Carey 10, Addo 9, Johnson 7, Brown 2, Haberern 2.
Halftime: 44-32, Largo