The Howard County boys basketball championship trophy may as well beenshrined permanently at Oakland Mills. It's beginning to look as though the Scorpions will never lose another one.
Oakland Mills won its fourth straight county title and fifth in the past six years by out-muscling and out-shooting Howard, 86-72, Thursday at Howard.
The game took on the trappings of a college basketball tournamentwith two television cameras taping it for delayed viewing on cable station Channel 8 on Sunday at 2, 6 and 10 p.m. It will be the first entire county basketball game ever televised, and it drew a packed house.
The game went well early for Howard, as the Lions grabbed a 13-11 lead after one quarter, led by Terry Troy's (17 points) five points. Oakland Mills played sloppily, making seven turnovers in the quarter.
Howard played a man-for-man defense and double-teamed OaklandMills' 6-foot-5, 220-pound forward Marc Terry, who had scored 31 points Tuesday when the Scorpions clinched a tie for the title by crushing runner-up Hammond, 78-61.
Howard and Oakland Mills each shot 5-for-14 from the floor in the first quarter.
The game remained nip-and-tuck through the second quarter as Oakland Mills began drawing a bundle of fouls. Howard made 13 free throws in the second quarter, including eight by Al Sutton.
Entering the game, Sutton had made 29 of his last 31 free throws. He finished Thursday's game 12-for-15 at the line.
But the free throw shooting barely offset a decided Oakland Mills superiority on the boards.
The Scorpions' two big bangers, Terry and Gregg Washington, pulled down 12 and 13 rebounds, respectively, for the game. They each put in 21 points.
Sutton (17 points) hit four straight free throws in the closing seconds of the first half, putting Howard up, 36-34. But Scorpion Travis Williams (12 points) sank a wild three-pointer off the backboard at the buzzer to sendthe Scorpions to the locker room leading 37-36.
"That was a big shot," Howard coach Rich Jenkins said. "They did that to us earlier this year." Oakland Mills won that game, played in January, by a point,57-56.
Oakland Mills committed 12 turnovers by halftime.
In the second half, Oakland Mills decided to combat the double-team on Terry by spreading its offense and posting up down low. No one could handle Terry one-on-one. Nor could anyone handle Washington.
That duoled Oakland Mills to a 60-53 lead after three quarters, despite 10 more points on free throws by Howard. The Lions sank 23 free throws inthe second and third quarters combined.
In the fourth quarter, things opened up for Carruthers Gant (16 points, 10 rebounds), Oakland Mills' leading scorer. The senior guard sank five baskets in a row for Oakland Mills, including two fast-break layups and two tough turnaround jumpers.
The second layup was off an alley-oop pass from Washington.
By then it was 70-59, but Oakland Mills kept pouring it on. A put-back by Washington, two free throws by Williams, and three free throws by Washington made it 77-59, and the Scorpions had clinchedsole possession of the title.
Had Oakland Mills lost, either Hammond or Wilde Lake would have had a shot at tying for the title by winning their games. There hasn't been a co-championship in boys basketball since 1972, however, and Oakland Mills made sure it didn't happenthis year.
Howard had problems going against Oakland Mills' 2-2-1zone press in the second half.
"We just didn't attack it well," Jenkins said.