Owls clinch sec­tional top seed

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By BILL GATES bgates@ches­pub.com

With one more win, the Dun­dalk boys bas­ket­ball team won’t need to leave their home court in the post­sea­son ex­cept to make the trip to Col­lege Park.

The Owls clinched the top seed in the Class 3A North Sec­tion 2 play­offs with a 64-59 win over vis­it­ing Oakland Mills on Mon­day.

If Dun­dalk (16-3) wins its reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale at Franklin, which was sched­uled to be played on Wed­nes­day, it will clinch the over­all top seed for the Class 3A North re­gion and would host ev

ery play­off game. The re­gional win­ner ad­vances to the Class 3A state semi­fi­nals at the Univer­sity of Mary­land.

Oakland Mills, the 2015 Class 2A state cham­pi­ons, en­tered the game with a los­ing record (5-13) but led by as many as 11 points in the third quar­ter.

“We told our play­ers be­fore the game, don’t be fooled by their record,” Dun­dalk coach Steve Op­pen­heim said. “Records are just num­bers. Howard County bas­ket­ball is a strong league, and [Oakland Mills] was state champs just two years ago.

“They’re well-coached, fun­da­men­tally sound and con­test ev­ery shot.”

The Scor­pi­ons hit a three-pointer in the fi­nal se­cond of the se­cond quar­ter to take a 35-33 lead into half­time, then scored the first nine points of the third quar­ter.

With Oakland Mills lead­ing 44-33 and threat­en­ing to spoil Dun­dalk’s hopes for the top play­off seed, the Owls Gates Cook stepped up.

Cook, Dun­dalk’s most re­li­able three-point shooter, had been hav

ing an off-night up to that point. But he swished a three-pointer from the cor­ner with 5:34 re­main­ing in the quar­ter to ig­nite a 13-3 Owl run that lifted Dun­dalk right back into the game.

Ray­onte Brown had a put-back and fol­lowed it up with a three­p­oint play to make it 47-46, Oak

land Mills, with 1:25 re­main­ing in the quar­ter.

The Owl de­fense also did its part, hold­ing the Scor­pi­ons to one field goal over a five-minute stretch.

“I told the play­ers we had to push the ball,” Op­pen­heim said of the 11-point deficit. “We had to pres­sure and push, get some turnovers, make them take some bad shots.”

The Owls forced five turnovers dur­ing the 13-3 run.

Oakland Mills still led 49-46 en­ter­ing the fourth quar­ter, helped in part by the Owls miss­ing five straight free throws.

Nick Par­rish broke the streak, sink­ing two foul shots, and Cook con­verted a three-point play to give Dun­dalk the lead for the first time in the se­cond half, 51-49.

The Scor­pi­ons re­sponded with five unan­swered points — Dun­dalk missed two more free throws — to go up 54-51 with 4 min­utes re­main­ing.

Jauwan Graham scored on a drive to get the Owls to within one point, and Jay­lon John­son hit both ends of a one-and-one to put Dun­dalk ahead for good, 55-54, with 3:31 re­main­ing.

The Owls sank seven-of-nine free throws down the stretch to keep the Scor­pi­ons at bay.

Dun­dalk’s de­fense held Oakland Mills to two field goals in the third quar­ter, and three field goals over the fi­nal 13 min­utes of the game.

“Th­ese are the type of games you’re go­ing to face this time of year,” Op­pen­heim said. “It’s a 32-minute game; teams are go­ing to have runs. We just gut­ted it out and found a way to win.”

Par­rish led Dun­dalk with 14 points. John­son had 11 points, while Cook and Graham each scored 10.

Fri­day, Dun­dalk trav­elled to Mil- ford Mill and stunned the hosts with a con­vinc­ing 62-42 win. Par­rish scored 22 points, Tay

quan Busby scored 14 points and Graham had 12.

It is be­lieved to be Dun­dalk’s first win over Milford Mill in bas­ket­ball. The Millers were 14-4 en­ter­ing the game and were on a 13game win­ning streak.

“It was a state­ment game,” Op­pen­heim said. “It made our guys be­lieve we can go from a good team to a pos­si­bly great team.”

It was also Se­nior Night for the Millers, and their first Bal­ti­more County Di­vi­sion I loss.

Milford Mill won the di­vi­sion with a 10-1 record. Dun­dalk and New Town are tied for se­cond , both 9-2.

Pat­ap­sco (6-12) de­feated Carver A&T 59-56 in over­time on Fe­bru­ary 8, and lost at Du­laney on Fri­day 92-51.

Spar­rows Point (0-17) lost at Dun­dalk 76-53 on Fe­bru­ary 7 and lost at Owings Mills on Mon­day 79-59.

PHOTOS BY BILL GATES

Jauwan Graham drives to the bas­ket for a key score in the fourth quar­ter against Oakland Mills.

Ray­onte Brown of Dun­dalk con­tests an Oakland Mills shot.

Jay­lon John­son’s two free throws with 3:30 re­main­ing gave Dun­dalk the lead for good over Oakland Mills.

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