Winning Work Ethic

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

The last time No. 14 Oakland Mills (21-3) played in the state boys basketball championships at College Park, leading scorer Mike Hill was in the eighth grade. That year (1991) the Scorpions lost to Catonsville in the semifinal.

Tonight the Scorpions hope to avoid an early-out situation when they tangle in a Class 2A state semifinal with South Hagerstown (19-2), a team that has four players averaging in double figures.

Hill, a 6-foot-3 senior, is Oakland Mills' all-time leading scorer with 1,202 points. This season the forward is averaging 22.6 points and 9.3 rebounds, while shooting 54 percent from the floor and 68 percent at the foul line. He's second on the team with 32 three-pointers.

"It's been a lot of hard work getting there [state semifinal], but it's been our goal from the start of the season," he said. "I think we surprised everybody by getting there."

The Scorpions finished with a 5-15 record a year ago and won this season's South Region championship game when Jeff Ngare banked in a 25-footer at the buzzer to beat Glenelg in double-overtime, 68-67.

Oakland Mills won a state title in 1990 and has lost in the state semifinals three other times under 12-year coach Dave Appleby. His career coaching record is 190-75, and that includes six county titles -- five in a row from 1988 through 1992.

The Scorpions' offense centers around Hill and junior 6-2 guard Irving Conwell, who averages 20.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, five assists and four steals. Conwell, a transfer from Hammond, has a team-leading 40 three-pointers and shoots 47 percent from the floor.

Conwell usually is assigned to guard the other team's best perimeter shooter, and will guard South Hagerstown's Dee Harris, a senior guard who averages 21.2.

South Hagerstown has a senior center, 6-5 Ebby Bynam, who averages 19.3 points and 11 rebounds.

It will be up to 6-4 Tony Howard and 6-7 Matt Wichita to try and stop Bynam. Shawn Hill, Mike's brother, also will see playing time at forward.

South Hagerstown plays a three-guard, half-court style of

fense and a 1-3-1 zone defense. Its only losses were to St. Maria Goretti and Williamsport.

"It will be a tough game, but hopefully we will all play hard enough to win," Mike Hill said.

Playing hard has been a characteristic of Oakland Mills teams.

From the first game of the season, a 95-91 overtime loss to Thomas Johnson, the Scorpions have played hard.

They came back to defeat Thomas Johnson later in the season, 59-57. That is Thomas Johnson's only loss, and the Patriots have beaten powerful teams such as DeMatha and Southwestern.

Oakland Mills' only other losses were to Mount Hebron, 68-66, and to Atholton, 57-56. Both those teams battled with the Scorpions to the final week for the county title. Atholton won it with a 13-1 league mark.

"It was disappointing that we didn't win the county, but we've moved on to other things now," Hill said.

Sophomore point guard Quan Davis has averaged nine assists and limited his turnovers to an average of two.

The Scorpions have missed sophomore guard Fardan Carter, their best defensive player and third-best shooter, who was pulled off the team late in the season by his mother for academic reasons.

Oakland Mills has won all eight games since Carter left the team, but by unexpectedly close margins -- two by one point and one by three points.

"Our defense has definitely suffered without Fardan, but we've all tried to do a little more to make up for it," Conwell said.

Appleby worked this week at getting the Scorpions to show more patience on offense and to play better defense.

"We have to stop trying to do too much and just take what's there," he said. "We have to cut down on bad shots and reach-ins on defense."

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