Oakland Mills falls short again in 2A state boys basketball Elite Eight; Grant drops 30

by Andy States

Special to VSN

Just 2 minutes 38 seconds had passed before the first timeout in Friday night’s Class 2A South championship game at Thomas Stone, but things were looking good for Oakland Mills.

Paced by six quick points from Daeshawn Eaton, thev  Scorpions led 13-5 when Stone called a timeout, then increased the lead to 10 on Barry Evans’ bucket coming out of the timeout.

“Obviously it ebbs and flows, but I was actually very impressed after that bus ride,” said Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne, referencing the team’s journey through traffic to Waldorf for the game. “We were sitting on the bus for almost three hours. Boom, boom, change get on the court and to come out with that energy. I was like, ‘Wow, the bus ride didn’t affect us.’ I was very happy.”

Unfortunately for Oakland Mills, the early momentum fizzled out and behind a monster 32-point effort from Stone senior Gary Grant the host Cougars won the region crown by a 69-60 count.

The Cougars (22-4 overall) will play No. 1 Patterson in a 2A state final four contest at the University of Maryland Friday evening. The Clippers defeated Baltimore City rival Edmondson, 58-49, in the North finale Friday.

Oakland Mills (19-6) defeated Patterson in the 2015 2A state final, ending a run of postseason disappointments. Friday’s setback, however, marked the Howard County school’s sixth state Elite Eight loss in the last nine seasons.

“It was a regional final. It wasn’t going to be a blowout, and we haven’t blown anyone out all year,” Browne said. “My hat’s off to them for settling in and absorbing that first punch and then swinging right back. It was a tremendous game, tremendous half.”

Eaton scored 13 of his team-high 25 points in the opening half, as Oakland Mills took a 39-38 lead to the break. The teams traded the lead back and forth in the third quarter, with Eaton and Grant providing dueling buckets for a time, until a 6-1 run by Stone with baskets from Grant, Shawn Barclay and a Jacory Wilkes’ dunk lifted the hosts to a 50-46 advantage late in the period.

The Scorpions were able to eventually knot the score at 56 on Truth Norton’s three-pointer with 4:34 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Grant scored nine of the game’s next 11 points to give Stone a relatively comfortable 65-58 edge with 1:06 to play.

“I thought the defense going down the stretch was crucial,” Stone coach Dale Lamberth said. “We weathered their runs. We’d do something and they’d come down and [Eaton] sliced and diced through us all evening. I knew he was a good player. I really didn’t want to overemphasize him just because I didn’t want the guys to be starstruck. But as the game went on I was in their ear like, ‘He’s a good player. You need to toughen up.’

“I thought we made some good plays and got some good rebounds and made a couple of their shooters take some ill-advised shots. We capitalized on that down the stretch. I just thought the kids played great defense down the stretch.”

Norton (13 points) and Ke’von Simpson (11 points) both joined Eaton in double figures scoring for Oakland Mills, but the team could not find an answer for Grant in crunch time.

“I just didn’t have anyone who could stop him. He’s just too big, too strong, too talented. He’s amazing. He’s fun to watch,” Browne said. “They put some good pressure on us. I think we got a little rattled and kind of got out of running our set offense and turned the ball over way too much.”

Class 2A South Region final

Thomas Stone 69, Oakland Mills 60

Oakland Mills – Eaton 25, Norton 13, Simpson 11, Riggs 5, Evans 4, Eiland 2.

Thomas Stone – Grant 30, Barclay 13, Wilkes 7, Wilson 6, J’Shawn 4, Skidmore 4, Locke 3, Hines 2.

Halftime: Oakland Mills 39, Thomas Stone 38