Oakland Mills push past No. 9 River Hill, stays alive in HoCo boys’ hoops title chase; Greggs and Hairston combine for 35
by Derek Toney
As River Hill High did its best impression of the Golden State Warriors in the first half of Tuesday’s Howard County boys’ basketball game against Oakland Mills, the Scorpions were confident about two things.
The Hawks couldn’t keep up their torrid shooting pace. Second, and most important, the Scorpions weren’t going to go down without a fight on Senior Day.
Oakland Mills rallied in the second half to take a 70-65 victory over the ninth-ranked Hawks in Columbia. Senior forward Mister Hairston scored 18 points for the Scorpions (16-4 overall, 12-3 Howard), and Harrison Greggs finished with 17.
The Kiliminjaro Road school overcame a 14-point deficit, denying the Hawks (18-3, 13-2 Howard) the opportunity to clinch the league title outright. Oakland Mills can get a piece of the HoCo crown with a victory over Marriotts Ridge Thursday and a River Hill loss to Glenelg.
The Scorpions, who’ve won eight straight, last won the league crown in 2015.
On a day Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne saw top scorers Robert Burgess and Daeshawn Eaton combined for just 15 points, he watched the rest of the starting five grab the mantle Wednesday.
“The development of them has catapulted us into the position that we’re in and the win streak we’re on,” said Browne.
“Everybody did a good job in the starting five,” said Greggs. “Mister, Dae Dae, Robert, Ke’Von, Shawn, everyone.”
Ke’Von Simpson (14 points) brought the crowd to its feet with a steal and dunk, giving the Scorpions their first lead since the opening basket at 60-58 with 4 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in regulation. They led, 65-60, after Burgess (six points) drained a 3-pointer from the corner with two minutes left.
After Eaton (nine points) converted two free throws for a 67-62 advantage with 16.8 seconds to play, Luke Champion dropped a trifecta, bringing River Hill to within two with 10.6 seconds. Champion was whistled for an intentional foul and River Hill drew a technical foul, leading three more free throws from Eaton (6-of-8 free throws).
The Hawks put on a shooting clinic in the opening half, hitting five 3-pointers in the opening frame and handing Oakland Mills’ full-court press for numerous open looks. River Hill led, 39-25, midway in the second after Jaden Martin’s steal and layup.
“We needed to close out on the shooters and make sure we were locking down,” said Hairston.
The Scorpions, playing tight man-to-man defense, closed the deficit to 51-46 late in the third, but River Hill answered with a Martin jumper and Josh Mann’s 3-pointer for a 10-point advantage. The Hawks led 56-50 entering the fourth, but the veteran squad fell apart over the final eight minutes.
Champion led all scorers with 23 points for River Hill, and Martin finished with 14.
“We became a jump shooting team, we didn’t beat up the shot clock enough. We became a team in a hurry like we were losing,” said Hawks coach Matt Graves. “We didn’t get anything below 15-feet, we didn’t get to the free throw line, got out-rebounded by 11 rebounds. We wore out mentally and physically in the second half.”
Before the game, Oakland Mills honored seniors Chan Brown, Burgess, Sean Chance, Greggs, Hairston and Kendall McFadden. The Scorpions won eight games last season.
Now, they’re a win away from a possible sixth Howard title in eight seasons.
“We’re more locked in,” said Hairston. “We’re just brothers and playing as a team.”
Oakland Mills 70, No. 9 River Hill 65
River Hill – Mann 11, Champion 23, McKenna 6, Okojie 1, Martin 14, Krause 10. Totals 27 3-9 65.
Oakland Mills – Eaton 9, Simpson 14, Burgess 6, Gaymon 6, Greggs 15, Hairston 17, McFadden 3. Totals 25 13-19 70.
River Hill 26 13 17 9 – 65
Oakland Mills 15 16 19 20 – 70