In a hostile Oakland Mills gym Thursday against an undefeated Scorpions team the Cavaliers were given little chance to beat, Thomas’s three-point attempt from the right corner looked good out of his hand, but with the Maryland 2A South region final on the line, Thomas wasn’t sure.
“My heart was just pounding,” Thomas said afterward. “Like, this just got to go in.”
Thomas’s three fell with nine seconds left on the clock, and after Oakland Mills missed a three on the other end in the final second, Calvert had upset the ninth-ranked Scorpions for the 2A South championship, 69-67, in Columbia.
The win gives the Cavaliers (19-6) their first region title since 1997, and propels them to Comcast Center at the University of Maryland, where they will play the 2A East champion in a state semifinal next week.
Oakland Mills (24-1) lost in the region final for the third time in four years, and for the second time in the last three years the Scorpions suffered their first loss of the season when just one more win would have sent them to states.
“We’re finally learning how to finish games,” said Calvert guard Jermaine Hunter, who passed to Thomas for the winning basket. “We had struggled, but we just didn’t want to go home.”
Oakland Mills led by 10 points late in the third quarter behind forwards Lavon Long (25 points) and Dajuan Dent (16 points), and Deshawn Willis’s shooting (15 points, three third-quarter three-pointers) but the Scorpions could not put Calvert away.
A 9-0 Calvert run late in the third quarter brought the Cavaliers back within one, and the lead changed four times in the fourth quarter before Thomas’s game-winning shot.
“We’re just used to battling and fighting,” Calvert Coach Jeremy Kurutz said. “Our conference [the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference] helped prepare us for this because we’ve faced some big boys, but we just continue to do what we do.”
Calvert forward Josh Smith finished with a team-high 23 points, and gave Calvert a 63-62 lead on a tough layup inside with 2 minutes 30 seconds to play.
Long put Oakland Mills ahead, 64-63, with a putback layup on the next possession, and after Thomas made 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game at 64, Long converted a three-point play to put the Scorpions up 67-64 with 1:47 left.
Hunter (20 points) made two free throws to cut the lead to 67-66 with 37.3 seconds left, and after Oakland Mills missed the front end of a one-and-one with 27.5 seconds to play, Calvert got the rebound and Kurutz called a timeout.
On the game-winning play, Hunter called for a clear-out, and when the Oakland Mills defense collapsed on his drive, he kicked to Thomas for the shot that stunned a packed gym and sent Calvert running into the visitors’ locker room for an unlikely celebration.
“I had confidence when he dished it off to me,” Thomas said. “I was praying, and it went in.”