On paper, Thursday's regular-season finale at Howard High School didn't mean much to Oakland Mills' girls basketball team. Win or lose, the Scorpions would end up no worse than tied for second place in the county standings. Win or lose, they would remain top-seeded in this week's Class 3A Region I playoffs.
Didn't mean much? Try telling that to Oakland Mills guard Mia Dammen.
Dammen showed why she is the Scorpions' main spark. Her season-high 32 points, eight rebounds, six assists, four steals, and 12-for-14foul shooting pushed Oakland Mills to a 66-54 victory.
The victory gave Oakland Mills (20-2) undisputed possession of second place with a 12-2 county record, and knocked Howard into third place with a final 10-4 league mark. The Lions (15-7) had hoped to assure themselvesof a second seed in the 3A Region I playoffs -- and a first-round bye -- while tying the Scorpions for second place in the county.
ButDammen would have none of that. "We had to win this in order to holdsecond place," she said. "If we can't be in first, which is where weshould be, there's no way we're sharing second."
Dammen's words were preceded by actions that spoke louder. After keeping the Scorpions in a game that saw the lead change hands nine times in the first three quarters, Dammen was forced to assume the point guard position normally occupied by Stefanie Magro, when Magro fouled out early in thefourth period.
Dammen didn't waste her crunch-time chance. She took over the game.
She scored 16 of Oakland Mills' 21 fourth-quarter points -- including the first 10 of the period -- to lead a 12-4 run that gave the Scorpions a 57-46 lead with 4:34 left. Dammen then countered Howard's fouling strategy by hitting six straight free throwsto hold off the Lions. And all day, whether Dammen -- who was 9-for-9 from the foul line in the final quarter -- was standing still on the foul line, blowing past Howard defenders with slashing moves to thebasket or floating outside to sink two three-point shots, she was too much for the Lions.
"Our philosophy is built on not letting one player beat us, and she (Dammen) went through us like water. God, I'mglad she's graduating," said Howard coach Craig O'Connell, whose Lions probably will draw the third seed and if so, would host an undetermined first-round opponent Tuesday night. Howard could see Dammen andthe Scorpions again in Saturday's Region I final.
"Mia knew the pressure was on, and that's something she thrives on," added Oakland Mills coach Teresa Waters. "She's the one who keeps a cool head. She felt like this was an opportunity to make something happen, and she did it."
Oakland Mills had other sparks as well. Senior forward Christine Copeland was outstanding underneath, scoring 11 points -- nine in the third period -- and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds to lead the board-crashing Scorpions. They out rebounded Howard, 40-23. Forward Andrea Romich had five points and 11 rebounds. Magro added eight points.
Kristi Greer led Howard with 24 points on subpar 7-for-21 shooting, which mirrored the Lions' troubles in that area. Howard shot just 22-for-62 from the floor, due to both the Scorpions' swarming man-to-man defense and a slew of missed layups. The Lions also struggled at the foul line, hitting just 10 of 21 shots.