George Bradford said he likes to be the spark that lights Wilde Lake's fire.
Before a home-court crowd Thursday, Bradford touched off an inferno by scoring 32 points as his red-hot shooting Wildecats handed Oakland Mills its first league loss, 86-75. The defeat snapped a 12-game Oakland Mills winning streak.
"Wilde Lake played great and made us look bad," said Oakland Mills coach Dave Appleby.
"Wilde Lake was a motivated opponent, and wewere playing in their gym, and we just couldn't stop them."
Oakland Mills (15-5 overall, 11-1 league) could have clinched its fifth straight league championship with a victory. It has a two-game lead over Mount Hebron and is guaranteed at least a tie for the championship,but it will win the title outright with one more victory. Two leaguegames remain.
Bradford was 13-for-13 at the foul line and hit onethree-point shot at a crucial point in the fourth quarter. Most important, he found room to drive and score, something he was unable to do three weeks ago when Oakland Mills beat Wilde Lake, 89-65, and Bradford was held to 15 points.
Oakland Mills' 6-foot-5, 225-pound center, Mark Terry, was nearly as dominant as Bradford, scoring 28 points. But Terry sat out most of the second quarter in foul trouble, thanks partly to Wilde Lake's 6-5, 220-pound center Ira Crawley.
The Wildecats center, who did not play in the earlier 24-point loss to Oakland Mills, was playing only his fourth game of the season after recovering from a broken foot suffered during football season.
But thereal difference was shooting.
Oakland Mills usually shoots about 50 percent from the floor, but it dropped to 40.5 percent in Thursday's game as Wilde Lake's tenacious defense had the Scorpions missing shots they'd normally make. Wilde Lake shot 50.9 percent.
Bradford scored 12 points in the first quarter. Wilde Lake led 25-16 at the quarter break and upped that lead to 49-32 at halftime.
Terry, who sat out the last seven minutes of the half, did not score in the second quarter. And Bradford scored just two points. But substitute guard Taronn Evans (13 points) stepped up with eight second-quarter points for Wilde Lake.
Wildecats coach Paul Ellis went to his bench oftenand with excellent results.
Oakland Mills guard John Hilliard (23points) kept his team alive by hitting four three-point shots in thefirst half, and five for the game.
Wilde Lake's Matt Nesbitt (10 points) and Pat Brown countered Hilliard's two second-quarter three-pointers with one three-pointer apiece.
Oakland Mills cut what was once a 20-point Wilde Lake lead to 10 by the end of the third quarter, led by Terry's 12 points during that period. Crawley played only two minutes of that quarter due to foul trouble.
Early in the fourthperiod it looked as though Oakland Mills would sweep past Wilde Lake(9-9, 7-5) and claim another victory. The Scorpions narrowed the gapto 64-58 with 7 minutes, 15 seconds to play.
But a few seconds later Terry drew his fourth foul. He stayed in the game, but Wilde Lakewent on an 8-3 run that included six points from Bradford.
"We just could not stop Bradford," Appleby said.
Crawley fouled out with6:28 left, but Deon Wingfield (12 points) sparked Wilde Lake with another of his strong efforts off the bench. He scored eight points in the fourth quarter.
The teams won't meet in the playoffs because Wilde Lake is Class 1A and Oakland Mills is Class 2A.
Wilde Lake has won three of the last four regular-season meetings between the two teams.