Perhaps the best sign yet that senior Will Robinson Jr. finally found his comfort zone with the Oakland Mills boys’ basketball team this year came when everything around him seemed to be unraveling during Friday night’s 66-61 win over Oakdale in the Maryland 2A semifinals at Xfinity Center.
The Scorpions had just squandered a 17-point lead for the second time in four days, and a three-pointer by Oakdale’s Jared Ruiz sent them searching for answers in a timeout. As was the case just a few days earlier, Robinson had one.
“We kind of got lazy, so I was kind of mad at myself for letting it happen,” he said. “I felt like I had to come back and get the lead and keep the lead and get the win for my team.”
Robinson ultimately kept his promise, scoring 12 of his game-high 22 points in the final six minutes to hold off Oakdale’s charge and put No. 14 Oakland Mills (23-3) in position to win its first state title in 25 years. The Scorpions will face 2A North champion Patterson in the state championship game Saturday afternoon in College Park.
But they nearly collapsed under a wave of turnovers. Oakdale (19-6) had three different chances to tie the score in the final minute of regulation, including a three-point attempt by Ruiz (21 points) with less than 10 seconds remaining.
Oakland Mills big man Mamadou Ndiaye (15 points) spearheaded the defensive effort late, drawing three charges in the waning moments to help quell Oakdale’s momentum.
“They don’t always make it, let’s say, unstressful for me,” Oakland Mills Coach Jon Browne said. “But they do find ways to come back and seal the game when it counts.”
It was Robinson who came to the rescue offensively with Oakland Mills reeling, just like he did in Monday’s win against Douglass in the 2A South region final, when he scored 14 of his 15 points in the final nine minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime after the Scorpions wasted another 17-point lead.
This postseason run, Robinson noted, is the culmination of a nomadic high school career. Oakland Mills is his fourth school in four years as he searched for the right fit for his evolving game. He’s still trying to convince college scouts his unorthodox style will translate at the next level.
The 6-foot-5 guard is most adept working in the post, a strategy he turned to again once Oakdale grabbed the lead with its 15-2 fourth-quarter surge. Robinson scored 10 of Oakland Mills’s next 11 points in the paint or at the free throw line.
“I’m not really trying to impress nobody, but I know what I do best and what helps our team win,” he said.
“I just try to play as hard as I can when it counts the most.”