Oakdale coach Brandon Long strongly expressed his displeasure with his team at halftime, particularly taking issue with what he thought was poor defense in Thursday’s Class 2A West Region II boys basketball semifinal against Boonsboro.
His postgame speech took on a much different tone.
“He was saying he didn’t know how he could be so upset and then be so pleased at the end of the game,” Oakdale guard Alex Hawkins said after the Bears pulled away from the visiting Warriors in the fourth quarter of a 94-64 victory.
This much was clear: Long wasn’t happy about how often Kole Haga got to the basket. Utilizing an assortment of head fakes and jump-stops in the lane, the Boonsboro senior guard repeatedly twisted and wiggled his way through the lane to finish with a team-high 22 points.
But Haga wasn’t a one-man show as Ethan Weir and Justin Osmond also had success scoring off the dribble in the first half for an inspired Boonsboro team intent on pulling off a major upset in the playoffs.
“They have nothing to lose,” Long said. “They were hungry, they were starving, and they wanted more than anything to beat us.”
The aggressive Warriors registered three three-point plays in the first half. On one of them, Weir flipped a shot over his shoulder with his back to the basket as Boonsboro stayed within striking distance, trailing just 39-34 after Peyton Wescott banked in a half-court shot at the halftime buzzer.
“We knew they had some lucky shots, so we just had to move forward,” said Hawkins, who finished with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists for Oakdale (18-6), which will next host Middletown (19-5) at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Class 2A West Region II final.
Long’s delight stemmed from the Bears’ response to Boonsboro’s intensity: an even higher level of intensity in the second half.
That focus manifested itself on offense, coming in the form of smart passes and crisp cuts to the basket as 11 different Oakdale players scored in the contest.
Hawkins established himself as a threat off the dribble but also with a reliable midrange jump shot, especially when Boonsboro went to a zone defense. He strung together two straight baskets early in the third quarter, giving Oakdale an 11-point lead with 3 minutes, 43 seconds left in the third quarter.
“When teams play zone, I can stand back and see the whole court better,” Hawkins said.
The Warriors traded baskets with the Bears for the rest of the quarter but couldn’t cut the deficit under eight points the remainder of the game. And with Haga scoring just two points in the fourth quarter for the Warriors (12-12), the Bears steadily padded their lead.
Oakdale’s Garrison Linton drained two 3-pointers on his way to 14 points, but he also flourished as a distributor, finishing with six assists. Tommy Kelly collected 11 points and three steals, and Kyler Dorner followed with 10 points, two assists and two steals.
Dylan Berney also scored 10 points for the Bears, and Jack McGaha had four assists and two steals.
“I thought we were aggressive,” Long said. “I thought we did a nice job of penetrating and kicking. I didn’t think we settled for the jump shot.”
That being said, Oakdale has long talked about making its third straight trip to Xfinity Center for the state semifinals, which requires two more victories. If the Bears want to achieve that goal, Long said, they must avoid the kind of lulls that took place on Thursday.
“Against good teams, you can’t take breaks,” Long said.