No. 12 Oakland Mills shelves Atholton in league opener, 62-59 BOYS BASKETBALL

January 10, 1995|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Sun Staff Writer

A shoe box is an unlikely lucky charm. But it works for No. 12 Oakland Mills' boys basketball team.

The Scorpions had lost their opening game this season before center Tony Howard began bringing an empty shoe box to games. Players touched the box before the game for luck and the team started winning.

Oakland Mills (8-1 overall, 1-0 league) won its eighth straight yesterday at Atholton -- shoe box in hand. The players huddled and touched the upraised box before the league-opening game, leaving the uninformed guessing.

Then the Scorpions broke previously undefeated Atholton's eight-game winning streak, 62-59.

"That was the first time we held it up in the air like that," Irving Conwell said. "But we thought we needed a little more luck against Atholton."

Non-believers in lucky charms would say the real reason Oakland Mills won was its defense, which down the stretch put a lid on No. 13 Atholton's offense.

Oakland Mills trailed 56-48 with less than five minutes left in the game after a three-point play by Atholton center Nat Watkins (10 points). The Raiders were held to three points the rest of the way.

Atholton made four straight turnovers, including a five-second call on an inbounds play.

During that time, Howard (eight points) made two baskets and Mike Hill (22 points, nine rebounds) one basket to pull the Scorpions within two points, 56-54, with 3:11 left.

That's when Howard fouled out. But Atholton, only 10-for-20 at the foul line, missed a one-and-one. The Raiders made one of two free throws with 2:03 left and then wasted another Oakland Mills offensive foul by again missing the one-and-one.

Hill's baseline scoring drive cut the Scorpions' deficit to 57-56.

Atholton's Brian Benden (16 points), the team's leading scorer with an 17.8 average, missed a layup.

Conwell (20 points, eight rebounds) drove for a basket that put Oakland Mills ahead, 58-57, with 56 seconds left.

Atholton made another turnover. Matt Wichita, who replaced Howard, sank two free throws for the Scorpions to give them a 60-57 lead with 42 seconds left.

Then Oakland Mills' defense forced Atholton to run off 24 seconds before D. J. Chiles made a layup off an inbounds play to cut the lead to 60-59 with 18 seconds left.

Atholton fouled Fardan Carter, who made the game-clinching free throws for Oakland Mills with 14 seconds left.

"I was glad to make those shots," Carter said. "The last four minutes we played really good defense. On paper, we weren't expected to win this season and we wanted them to know they are not the only team in the county."

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