When a team shoots only 37 percent (25-for-68) from the floor and still wins, it has to feel lucky.
And that's just how Oakland Mills felt Wednesday night after edging the fired up Howard Lions at Oakland Mills, 57-56. The Lions shot only 34 percent (23-for-68).
The second-place Scorpions played without starting point guardTravis Williams, who is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. And Gregg Washington, one of the team's top scorers, had the flu and played only the first half, in which he was ineffective and scoreless.
"We played with an inexperienced lineup and were lucky to win," said Oakland Mills coach Dave Appleby, whose patchwork squad barely wonin a thrilling finish.
Howard's Yaphet Oliphant hit a three-pointer with seven seconds left to pull the Lions within three points,57-54.
Then Oakland Mills (9-6 overall, 5-2 league) turned the ball over on the inbounds play with six seconds left. Paul Curry missed a three-point attempt but rebounded the ball and sank a shot at the buzzer. Unfortunately for the Lions, he was several feet inside the three-point line when he launched the shot.
Oakland Mills leading scorer, Carruthers Gant, had 26 points, 14 of those in the third quarter when the Scorpions pulled out to a 45-37 lead in what had been a nip-and-tuck game.
Gant, averaging 20 points, was simply sensational in that quarter. He hit the first shot of the third quarter, an 18-foot jumper, tying it at 28-all. He added three layups and two three-point baskets before the quarter ended. He was so hot, he missed one dunk attempt but the ball bounded up in the air and camedown straight through the net.
Gant also hit a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer that punctured Howard's spirits. Instead of leading by five, Howard went to the locker room with just a two-point lead, 28-26.
"With Gregg down sick, I knew I had to step up my game," Gant said. "I was surprised they didn't do something special on me like a box-and-one, and I was surprised at how pumped up Howard was."
Howard did put sharp-shooting Sutton on him defensively andheld Gant scoreless in the first quarter, but Gant was simply too good to stop indefinitely.
Two inexperienced Scorpion players, Derek Goodson and Antoine Baker, produced good efforts. Goodson started at guard and played most of the game. It was only his second varsity start.
"Antoine and Derek did real well for us," Gant said. "But we missed a lot of shots and turnovers killed us."
Oakland Mills made 16 turnovers but only one in the first quarter.
Howard held Oakland Mills to just four baskets in the fourth quarter, two by Gant and two by Terry. Al Sutton (14 points), Terry Troy (nine points) and Ermundo Russell (three points) sparked Howard's comeback effort.
Sutton's three-pointer with four minutes, six seconds left, cut Oakland Mills' lead to six points, 50-44.
Russell hita free throw but Howard then missed two layups. Missed layups plagued Howard the entire game.
After a trip to the other end of the court, Russell came back with a layup, cutting it to 50-47 with threeminutes to play.
Gant made a layup but Troy sank two free throws with 2:20 left. Poor free-throw shooting in the first half (4-for-12) also hurt Howard.
Russell missed a layup on a fastbreak, and Oakland Mills came back with four straight points to go up 56-49.
Dax Matthews, who led the Lions with 19 points, made a layup with 23 seconds left, cutting it to 56-51.
A free throw by Scorpion Mark Terry (15 points) made it 57-51. Then came the thrilling ending in which the Lions came up a few feet short at the buzzer.
"We moved the ball well and played well enough to win, but we made someturnovers and missed some layups," Howard coach Rich Jenkins said. "The third quarter has been a bad one for us this year."
Jenkins feels his team (7-8, 2-5) will get much better won-loss results in the second half of the season and that it is starting to jell.
"We need more rebounding, but we can still make the playoffs and go from there," Jenkins said.
Oakland Mills Coach Appleby thinks his team is just treading water until its starting lineup is back together.
"It's been one thing or another all season that has kept us from getting enough practice time together, mostly injuries," Appleby said. "Our team is still inexperienced and we make mental mistakesand hesitations that hold us back."
Gant agrees that this year's team is not nearly as experienced as last year's state championship squad.
"Last year's team had all played rec ball together, but this year we are filling in with players who didn't know each other before," Gant said. "Sometimes we try too hard."