Boys' Basketball: Oakland Mills Scorpions Sting Woodlawn Warriors, Win Season Opener
An experienced Oakland Mills team (eight seniors and five juniors) opened its season with high expectations after being ranked as the 11th best high school boys team in Maryland.
The Oakland Mills Scorpions varsity boys' and girls' basketball teams opened their seasons Monday in doubleheader fashion against the Woodlawn Warriors. The student section was overflowing with fans. They were screaming, jumping around, and waving homemade signs.
But when the girls dropped their game, 67-59, the fans were left wanting for more. These Oakland Mills faithful were eager for something to cheer about.
The boys, who were up next, delivered.
The Warriors scored first, but the Scorpions proved to be too fast and too athletic for Woodlawn to handle. The final score: Scorpions 77, Warriors, 62.
Oakland Mills senior forward Greg Whittington put on a show, scoring 25 points (shooting 11 for 18 from the field, including 1 of 5 with three-pointers) and posting an equally impressive 13 rebounds to complete the double-double
"In the end Whittington was too much," said Oakland Mills head coach Jon Browne.
The senior has the size of a center but the speed and athleticism of a guard. Big men can't keep up with him and smaller players don't have the size to battle with him in the post.
Whittington is a coach's dream.
The 6-foot-9 senior creates matchup problems, which lead to easy points in transition and in the paint.
Simply put, Whittington can take over a game.
"We are going to rely on Greg to do a lot of the work for us," Browne said. "He's something special.
And the coach expects the same sort of effort from Whittington throughout the season.
"I expect nothing less from him every night," Browne said. "He is going to have a big year. He's a tremendous player for us. He's very gifted. He can go inside, he can go outside, and he can handle the ball."
When Whittington and the rest of the team's offense are on, Oakland Mills will be hard to beat.
But the Scorpions fell apart at times – turning the ball over and committing silly fouls.
"We were a little sloppy, I thought, at times," Browne said, who noted "a lot of fouls in that first half. It changed the pace of the game early."
And that is when the Warriors began to fight their way back. The Scorpions like to play a fast-paced game. They want to score quickly and in bunches.
Oakland Mills is out of its element when the game slows down, because the Scorpions lack consistency in the shooting game and rely heavily on athleticism.
They tend to get away with this because they have more than enough athletes to go around.
But they are simply not the same team when they use their half-court offense.
"I'm not worried about it," said Browne, talking about his team's spotty shooting. "I would rather shoot twos than threes all day long with this team. I'd rather score in the paint. I'd rather be shooting layups off steals on defense than shooting threes."
The Scorpions have some holes, but they have a tremendous amount of potential at the same time.
The offense has the ability to seemingly score at will. And one big reason for that is the play of senior point guard Joe Kiely, who finished the game with 10 points, six rebounds, four steals, and a block.
Though he did not have an amazing night in the statistics columns, Kiely's ability to create shots for others and his knack for finding the ball on defense make him a huge key to the Scorpions' success.
"My point guard, Joe Kiely, is phenomenal," Browne said. "He didn't put up a lot on the stat line tonight, but he runs the show."
Kiely's ability to create for others allowed for some of his teammates to have pretty big nights as well.
Senior guard James Peters, who had to leave the game because of an ankle injury (which is not though to be serious), contributed 19 points, two steals, two rebounds, and a block while junior forward Kerry Bethea added 18 points, four rebounds, four blocks, and three steals.
The offense did their part, scoring an impressive 77 points in the season opener.
"I'm happy with the number of points scored," Browne said. "That is something that we want to do. Mid-seventies, 80s, I think is something we can accomplish all year."
But Coach Browne still feels his team has a lot to improve on.
"We got out of our offensive swing a lot tonight," Browne said. "We were watching one man try to do it on the perimeter with four guys watching. And that's when we let them back into the game."
The Scorpions had several big leads throughout the night but went through slumps where they let the Warriors back in the game.
"They rallied back, but we kept a nice little cushion," Browne said.
Woodlawn had Oakland Mills' lead down to as few as six points in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors failed to complete the comeback simply because the Scorpions refused to stop scoring.
"Our defense … didn't play that well tonight," Browne said.
Woodlawn shooters were finding open looks all over the court, hitting easy jumpers and finding clear paths to the rim.
The defense for the Scorpions has to be better if Oakland Mills has any hope to contend come playoff time.
"At the end of February or March, I would love to be playing in this gym," Browne said. "So every game matters."
Monday's victory was just the first step in a long season.
With the win the Scorpions start the year on the right track, 1-0. There are a lot of expectations this year for the Scorpions after being ranked 11th in the Baltimore Sun's preseason high school boys' basketball poll. But Coach Browne is not buying into all the hype – at least not yet.
"That's based on the competence of last year's team," Browne said. "We do have some big players back but … right now we are one day at a time."
Last year no longer matters.
The coach knows that the success of last year's team can only mean one thing for this year's Scorpions unit.
"We have a target on our back," Browne said.
Scoring by Quarter:
1 2 3 4 Final
O.Mills 15 16 22 24 77
Woodlawn 11 16 14 21 62
Top Four Oakland Mills Scorers:
Greg Whittington 25
James Peters 19
Kerry Bethea 18
Joe Kiely 10
Top Four Oakland Mills Rebounders:
Greg Whittington 13
Joe Kiely 6
Kerry Bethea 4
Three Tied with 2
Top Four Oakland Mills Steals:
Joe Kiely 4
Greg Whittington 4
Kerry Bethea 3
James Peters 2
Top Four Oakland Mills Blocks:
Kerry Bethea 4
Four tied with 1