Despite a record well below .500, the Oakland Mills girls basketball team took the court Friday night at Century and delivered an eye-opening message to potential playoff foes.
"We have a lot of potential," senior Theda Jackson said. "And when we show it, we're a hard team to beat."
Jackson and the Scorpions proved just how hard in their 58-42 win over the Knights in the opening round of the Class 2A West, Section II playoffs.
Jackson, a speedy 5-foot-5 guard, scored 18 of her game-high 22 points in the second half, as Oakland Mills outscored Century, 21-5, to open the third quarter and never looked back.
"We talked about coming out and taking over early in the third quarter," Scorpions coach Christina Hewitt said. "We've been talking about that for about the past five games, so I think they took it to heart."
Oakland Mills (7-16) now advances to face top-seeded Liberty on the road in the second round. If the Scorpions play like they did in the second half, they have a chance at the upset.
Tied at 22 at the half, the Columbia team shot out of the locker room and took command to start the third quarter, immediately taking the lead when Jackson twice got behind Century's defense and scored fast-break layups. Flanked by athletic teammates Ny'Jayha Lockwood (13 points) and Kyrah Pacheco, Jackson scored 13 in the quarter as the Scorpions built a double-digit lead less than three minutes into the half.
"I didn't think we were attacking the basket [in the first half]," Hewitt said. "We were settling for the jump shot. I wanted us to swing the ball and attack."
As much as their offense, it was their aggressive trapping defense that made an impact, forcing eight turnovers in the quarter and 25 for the game.
"I did not expect them to be as athletic as they were," Century coach John Ingram said. "But we should've been executing way better than that. It's nothing new for us to see a 1-3-1 trap. We were pretty used to it, but we just didn't come out and execute tonight."
Despite 12 points from Kelsey Weishaar and 10 from teammate Jasmine Leveille, the Knights (7-16) managed little offense after halftime and shot just 26 percent from the field over the final three quarters.
The Scorpions ran their lead to as much as 23 before pulling their starters late in the fourth quarter. They helped their own cause with a solid night at the foul line, where they made 13 of 16 in the second half.
Now, the task turns to Liberty, which finished 12-2 in Carroll County before falling to Manchester Valley in the county title game.
Records aside, Oakland Mills believes it has a realistic shot.
"We believe in each other," Hewitt said, "and we think we can play with the best of them."
Class 2A West, Section II Quarterfinal
Oakland Mills 58, Century 42
Oakland Mills -- Jackson 22, Lockwood 13, Weiss 7, Pacheco 12, Beha 4. Totals: 21 15-22 58.
Century -- Leveille 10, Ogle 3, Guillen 6, Weishaar 12, Wagner 8, Mowder 3. Totals: 15 8-16 42.