Centennial scored one basket in the game's final 11 minutes -- the fourth quarter and a three-minute overtime period. But the Eagles defeated host Oakland Mills, 53-50, yesterday with some accurate late-game free-throw shooting in the Howard County boys game.
The Eagles (9-2, 2-1) were 14-for-17 at the foul line in the fourth quarter and 3-for-6 in overtime, attacking aggressively inside and drawing repeated fouls from Oakland Mills.
Oakland Mills' top two players fouled out -- Michael Hill on the last play of regulation and Chad Barr early in the fourth quarter.
Centennial's top two players, Damian Biggs and Seann Jones, who had averaged 35 points between them for the past five games, scored four apiece.
Jones severely sprained his ankle early in the third quarter, and Biggs was in foul trouble most of the game before fouling out with 27 seconds left in regulation.
The game started 50 minutes late because one referee failed to show up. But with a big crowd on hand, officials hesitated to postpone the contest.
They waited until a referee appeared who was scheduled to work the second game of the boys-girls doubleheader.
"I wish they had postponed the game," winning coach Jim Hill said. "Both teams played sloppily because after you sit an hour, it takes the edge off."
At halftime, the game was tied at 28, and each team had missed several easy layups and committed eight turnovers.
Oakland Mills (3-8, 1-2) scored the first 12 points of the second half to go ahead 40-28.
"They [Centennial] were much more aggressive than we thought they'd be," Oakland Mills guard Rick Alvarado (16 points) said. He scored six in that 12-point run.
Brian Hulka kept Centennial in the game up to that point, hitting three three-point shots and scoring 19 of his game-high 23 points.
Mark Lee stepped up the rest of the way to lead the Eagles. Lee scored 12 of Centennial's next 17, as the Eagles pulled to a 45-45 tie.
Hulka's two free throws put Centennial ahead 47-45 with 1:53 left.
Hill countered with two free throws for Oakland Mills, making it 47-47.
But a free throw by Dave Hudson with 1:13 left and two by Mark James with 52 seconds left gave Centennial a 50-47 lead.
Alvarado made a 17-foot jump shot, and Matt Tan made a key steal for Oakland Mills. He went to the line with 27 seconds left and made one shot for a 50-50 tie.
Lee, who had hit six straight free throws, had a chance to win it when he was fouled one second before the final buzzer, but he missed both attempts, sending the game into overtime.
Hudson made two free throws for Centennial to start the overtime. And James hit one with 13 seconds left.
Alvarado's three-point attempt missed just before the final buzzer.
Overall, Centennial was 20-for-38 at the foul line, a poor effort for a team that was shooting 71 percent. But the Eagles made them when they counted most.
Oakland Mills committed 21 turnovers, eight in the third quarter.