Age catches up to Oakland Mills

Young Scorpions fall to `smart' Snow Hill in title game, 69-60

Class 1A boys basketball

March 11, 2001|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- The double-edged blade of youth finally caught the Oakland Mills boys basketball team in the Class 1A championship game yesterday.

During a magical playoff run, the Scorpions had nearly outrun their inexperience all the way to a state title. But yesterday's opponent, Snow Hill, was simply too focused, too deep and too good, shrugging off any thoughts of another upset with a 69-60 victory in the final at Cole Field House.

"We really didn't play our best today, but we can't be disappointed," Scorpions coach Dave Appleby said. "I'm not ashamed of what we did because this was a win-win for us: We're still learning, and we're still trying to find how high the ceiling is."

Oakland Mills' lack of seniors -- they have zero -- seemed to help them during a wild four-game playoff run, as opponents often folded in close games, while the fearless Scorpions flourished, never worrying that the next shot might be the last of their high school career. But Snow Hill exposed the other side of things in the final, proving in the first and fourth quarters that a little leadership goes a long way.

"This team is really, really smart," Eagles coach Allen Miller said. "The last half of the season, I hardly had to coach them at all, it seemed like. I told them a month ago, `Only four teams get to end the season with a win. Do you want to be one of those teams?' From there, they rose to the challenge."

The Eagles pressed at the start, and after falling behind 2-0, went on a 10-0 run and never trailed again. Snow Hill (22-5) also forced eight turnovers in the first six minutes, thanks in part to the inside presence of 6-foot-5 senior Keith Johnson, who, besides scoring 19 points and grabbing nine rebounds, clogged up passing lanes with his long arms.

Johnson's presence also held Oakland Mills forward Andre Brooks in check, something Pikesville didn't do in its semifinal loss to the Scorpions. Brooks led his team with 14 points, but grabbed only four rebounds, well below the 24-point, 11-rebound effort he posted in the semifinal.

"After seeing them on tape, we felt, because they liked to block shots, we could rebound the ball by beating them to position," Miller said. "That gave us a lot of second-chance opportunities."

Rebounds proved to be the difference, since neither team shot the ball particularly well. Hawks junior guard Jerrell Harmon went only 5-for-15, but his teammates collected 48 rebounds, 22 of them offensive, including nine by Tony Harmon , who scored 14 points.

"They're a team that can get you a number of ways," Appleby said. "They run the power game, but they can also press because they're athletic. That makes it tough to come back after getting down like we did."

Oakland Mills (14-13) hung around, trailing 33-26 at halftime, but could never close the deficit to fewer than six. Greg Braukus hit several nice jumpers in the second half, but the Scorpions never stopped playing catch-up because of Johnson, who tipped in errant shots, tracked down loose balls and fed Jerrell Harmon for several fast breaks. Snow Hills led 62-56 with 2:53 remaining, but made free throws to close out the game comfortably.

"We would have loved to have won today, but we know this was a two-year proposition for us," Appleby said. "I think the better team won, and I have no regrets. I'm very proud of them. I told the kids after the game, they exceeded everyone's expectations."

OM--Nicholson 11, Coranda 10, Brooks 14, Braukus 14, Barnes 11. Totals: 22 15-25 60. SH--Taylor 6, T. Harmon 14, Johnson 19, Bratten 7, J. Harmon 16, Frank 3, Norman 4. Totals 24 20-38 69. Half: 33-26, SH.

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