COLLEGE PARK — Daniel Oladapo had the ball on the right wing and a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter. At that moment he was 0-for-3 from long distance, and still weighing his options as he stared his defender down on the right wing. Oladapo took a jab step and then launched a 3-pointer, dropped through the twine and beating his chest triumphantly as he got back in transition.
That 3-pointer was apart of a 27-point, 11-rebound performance that led Bladensburg to a 69-53 victory against Old Mill on Thursday night at University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center.
“It’s all confidence I’m never down on myself if I’m having an off night,” Oladapo said. “I saw the defender back up and pulled up I knew my teammates would get hype after that.”
Both the Mustangs and the Patriots were trading shots for much of the contest, looking for any sort of momentum and the lead. The crowd was electric and seemingly energizing both squads after every play, miss or make, every dive for a rebound, the student-athletes motioning toward their fanbases at key moments provided goosebumps and smiles to anyone in attendance.
It was a gutsy performance from Oladapo, who is battling a knee and back injury, the latter happening against Eleanor Roosevelt in the 4A South region final. Despite the aches and pains, the senior forward delivered 14 points in the fourth quarter
“These kids, they believe in each other,” Bladensburg coach Antonio Williams said. “This is a true team. Like I said before we only had 17 kids try out for varsity, we kept 11. Our community is that. It ain’t because we’re waiting for kids to make grades. This is all we have.”
Heading into the second half with a 10-point advantage, the Patriots came out with fire and played beautiful basketball, getting to as close as 38-37 during a 12-1 run. The run was capped off by an Avion Robinson pull-up jumper. Oladapo, Tyshaun Walker, and Holligue Johnson kept the Patriots at bay hitting a pair of free throws, a tip at point-blank range, and a nifty pull-up jumper.
Just before the buzzer after a delirious third quarter, Robinson again nailed a pull-up jumper, but this time Oladapo responded with his own layup, giving the Mustangs a 44-39 lead going in the final frame.
“We were just talking about getting stops,” Oladapo said, “one stop at a time and just keep defending and getting rebounds.”
Once the fourth quarter began everything started to unravel for the Patriots. It all started with the Patriots turning the ball over three straight times, with two of them being unforced errors. The Mustangs took advantage by going on a massive 20-4 run, highlighted by that aforementioned Oladapo 3-pointer. With the Patriots becoming visibly frustrated as the game continued to get out of hand, the Mustangs defense was goading their Anne Arundel County foe into shooting more jumpers.
“The 4A basketball in Prince George’s County, I say thank you to all those coaches that make us work,” Williams said. “Because it’s night in and night out. You got to prepare for everybody. If you don’t prepare for everybody you ain’t coaching.”
“We try to take away the best thing that you do,” Williams added. 3Tonight it was their penetration, make them shoot jump shots and pull-ups. Get the ball in transition and push. They want to run, we want to run too.”
For the first time since 1978, the Mustangs will be playing in a state title game, going up against the defending state champions Perry Hall. Twenty-five alumni came to Bladensburg the night before to inspire this current iteration of the Bladensburg team to make sure they get done what those alums couldn’t.
“We can’t sugarcoat it, they’re a talented team,” Williams said. ” I think we match up pretty well. It’s going to be a hard-fought game. I know you have school in the morning but film is coming your way.”