FREDERICK — The resounding words of Tuscarora forward Jaylen Washington resonated instantly with his Titan teammates.
With eight lead changes in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, and after Oakdale’s Cory Schlee put the Bears ahead, 47-46, Washington took control of a timeout huddle, urging for two minutes of put-away tenacity.
Tuscarora didn’t allow a single field goal for the final 2:06 on Thursday night as the No. 10 Titans outlasted No. 22 Oakdale at home, 50-49.
“[Jaylen Washington is] an unbelievable leader in this basketball program,” Tuscarora head coach Darryl Whiten said. “He’s the oil in the engine.”
Washington, who finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two steals, clutched the go-ahead layup with 1:30 to go and knocked down two free throws with 27.7 seconds left to pad Tuscarora’s lead to 50-47.
On the final possession, he plugged the lane and stepped in front of a hard-charging Sean Jodrie, initiating just enough disruption to force the game-clinching turnover. Jodrie had received the inbounds pass with about eight seconds left, dribbled the length of the court and then lost the control of the basketball with 2.2 seconds left.
Boys hoops: No. 10 Tuscarora vs. No. 22 Oakdale – Final 1:30 http://t.co/nQbmPJ4K7k
— Kyle McFadden (@k_fadd) January 13, 2017
“If there’s no guts, there’s no glory,” Whiten said. “That’s what we tell them.”
Tuscarora (11-1) allowed only two points the final 2:06, when Oakdale’s Collin Schlee knocked down a pair of free throws to bring the Bears within one, 50-49, with 10.9 seconds remaining.
Oakdale (8-2) led 23-22 at halftime and forced Tuscarora, a fast and lean team, to play a steadier pace, slower than normalcy. Between the two teams, there were only 37 possessions — 25 shots attempted with 12 combined turnovers.
If you do the math, it was roughly 30 seconds per possession, with Oakdale dragging that number higher with meticulous, long offensive stands.
“Our thing is trust and discipline,” Whiten said. “If we do those things, we’ll be fine. … I thought our guys did a great job of being disciplined in the halfcourt.”
Tuscarora didn’t score their first basket until the 4:34 mark in the first quarter, when Obe Noal (14 points, six rebounds and four assists) pulled up from three feet behind the arc. On back-to-back possessions, and in a matter of 43 seconds, Noel swiped two steals and finished both for layups to give the Titans a 7-3 lead.
Tuscarora led by as many as four in the first half, when it was 14-10 at the end of the first, while Oakdale managed to take the lead four times and had their largest advantage when it was 3-0 after a Bradley Foster 3.
Oakdale opened the second half on a 6-2 run to take a 29-24 lead. After Oakdale pushed their lead back to five, 31-26, Noel cut through the lane and dropped in a circus, spinning layup to spark an 11-3 run the final 2:38 of the third.
Thirty two seconds after his dazzling lay-in, Noal pulled up a few feet behind the arc to tie it at 31-31. Alex Morrow drilled a 3-pointer out of a timeout to push the Titans’ lead to 34-32 and Washington, when time was winding down in the third, rattled in the go-ahead 3 to put Tuscarora ahead 37-34 going into the fourth.
— Mike Hombach (@MikeHombach) January 13, 2017
The Bears, however, would not go away. Foster put Oakdale in the lead once again with back-to-back 3’s in a matter of one minute and 19 seconds, 41-39.
After that, the lead changed hand seven times and Washington helped Tuscarora close the deal.
Despite dropping their matinee to Frederick last Tuesday, 54-46, Tuscarora appears to be the early favorite in the Class 3A West. In the first week, they picked sizeable wins against South Hagerstown and North Hagerstown.
During the final weeks of December, they beat previous No. 14 Linganore by nine and defending region champ and previous No. 4 Seneca Valley by 12. Last Friday, they beat Urbana by nine and on Thursday, they clamped down when they needed to for their sixth regional win.
They’ll have another intra-region test tomorrow when they travel to Thomas Johnson.
“We know folks want to beat us,” Whiten said. “We just have to keep our composure, play our game. If God is for you, who can be against you? We’re truly excited and blessed with the way these guys are playing.
“The biggest thing is, we can’t get satisfied.”
NOTE: Kyle Lepkowski notched six rebounds. Marcus Waddy, who sat most of the second half (illness), dished six assists.