Can any team stop Oakland Mills from winning its fifth straight county boys basketball championship?
Better yet, will any county team be able to prevent the Scorpions from racking up a perfect 14-0 league record?
The answer to both questions is a resounding no, if Friday's gamebetween the Scorpions and Howard can be used as a barometer.
Friday's game proved that even at their worst, the Scorpions (10-4 overall, 6-0 league) still are able to beat most county opponents by large margins.
Not much went right for Oakland Mills early. The team's anchor and best inside scoring threat, Marc Terry (11 points), played only half the contest because of foul trouble. The team's top outsidescoring threat, John Hilliard (seven points), eventually fouled out.
Take away those two for half the game and Oakland Mills should have been vulnerable.
But the final score was 70-50 -- Oakland Mills' sixth straight league win without a loss. Four of those have been by 20 points or more. Oakland Mills blasted Wilde Lake by 34 points Wednesday, 89-65, when the Scorpions played well.
"They (Oakland Mills) were definitely beatable tonight," Howard guard Dave Jones said Friday. "But the refs took a lot of momentum away from us especially on that charging call."
That call was in the second quarter when one ref signaled charging against Oakland Mills and the trailing ref overruled that call and gave Oakland Mills a basket and a free throw.
But the Lions, who broke an eight-game losing streak by upsetting Mount Hebron Wednesday, trailed only 17-12 after one quarter. That wasdespite poor offensive rebounding and a failure to stop Oakland Mills' fast break.
After trailing by as many as nine points, Howard cut the gap to 31-28 at halftime.
And when Howard's Mike Brown opened the third quarter with a long basket, the Lions seemed ready to pounce.
Instead, Oakland Mills moved ahead, 49-38, by the end of the quarter. The Scorpions were helped by Gregg Washington's eight-point period and four points from Chad Barr (12 points), who came off the bench when Hilliard sat down with his fourth foul three minutes into the quarter.
Barr proved a godsend for Oakland Mills, as he went onto score eight more points in the fourth quarter.
"Chad played impressively off the bench and (Kelly) Sykes helped us off the bench, also," Scorpions coach Dave Appleby said.
Among his starters, Appleby cited point guard Akil Benjamin and Michael Phillips (16 points) for their strong play. Washington also scored 16.
The Lions (3-9 overall, 1-5 league) really had no one to blame for the loss but themselves.
Turnovers played a role. Howard made 15 and Oakland Mills only seven.
And Howard's often poor shot selection, especially in the second quarter, combined with its inability to run its fast break, were all important elements that led to its undoing.
"Rebounding was the big thing that beat us," Howard coach Rich Jenkins said. "We don't have a strong inside game, and as a result we don't draw many fouls because we don't go to the basket aggressively."
Howard shot 10-for-12 at the line while Oakland Mills was 14-for-23.