Millford Mill vs Governor Thomas Johnson -
In the first semifinal action, Millford Mill led by seniors Ugo Obasi and Eric Turner, defeated Governor Thomas Johnson 68-59. The senior duo each scored 20 points in the victory. Governor Thomas Johnson was paced by senior forward Braxton Foreman who led the team with 17 points.
Stephen Decatur vs Baltimore Polytechnic -
At the start of each season, every team sets a common goal: finish the year at the Xfinity Center. Only 16 teams earn that privilege, so it should be hard to take that accomplishment for granted. For three straight seasons, the Stephen Decatur Seahawks of Worchester County have had sneakers on Gary Williams’ court, and for three straight seasons they’ve left in defeat.
The latest was a rematch of last year’s semifinals, the Seahawks lost to the defending 3A state champs, the Baltimore Polytechnic Engineers, 63-46.
“We played a really good Poly team,” assessed Coach Bryon Johnson. “Our kids left it on the floor.”
In addition to a blatant size disadvantage, Stephen Decatur doesn’t have many players who can create their own shot. Senior Kevon Voyles stood as the biggest threat to the Engineers. The University of Maryland-Eastern Shore signee averaged 25 points per game this year, shooting 49% from the field and 33% from deep.
He was the key assignment in this matchup.
“If you don’t talk about the defense that Cleveland Horton played today I don’t think you watched the same game that I did,” said Poly Coach Sam Brand. “He was just unbelievable on their best player all game long.”
Voyles was the only double-figure scorer for Stephen Decatur, finishing with 19 points on 30% shooting and going 2-10 from three.
Horton gave the credit to his coaches’ scouting report. “I just followed their scout, and went out there and executed.”
Poly is big, lanky and embraces defense, but the the tip of that spear is Horton. If Stephen Decatur was composed enough to break Poly’s intimidating full-court press, Horton was glued to Voyles like a shy puppy to its owner.
“I haven’t coached a guy on the defensive end with more dog in him than Cleve,” praised coach Brand.
On the offensive end, Poly Senior Demetrius Mims seemed to live at the rim, ending with 30 points on 58% shooting. Six-foot-eight sophomore transfer Justin Lewis also impressed, scoring only nine points but pulling down 12 rebounds and blocking five Seahawk shots.
It was an emotional loss for Johnson’s team, and after three missed shots at a title, senior Kevon Voyles might’ve carried the heaviest heart.
“It’s hard leaving,” said Voyles, holding tears in his eyes. “I gave it my all, each and every game.”
The Seahawks took nothing for granted.Saturday’s 3A championship will be all-Baltimore, as Baltimore Polytechnic’s quest for back-to-back state titles will culminate in a matchup with Milford Mill.
Gaithersburg vs Perry Hall -
“They’ve already thrown everything at us,” went star forward LaQuill Hardnett, as his teammates passed around a shrinking pack of Wild Berry Skittles. “Nothing’s gonna surprise us anymore.”
Off the court, after the buzzer sealed their big win, the Perry Hall Gators were jubilant and playful. They seemed harmless. That would come as a surprise to the Gaithersburg locker room, whose experience with the Gators was much more hostile than genial.
Perry Hall will look to repeat as 4A state champions after beating the Gaithersburg Trojans, 85-62. The team is led by a senior class that’s ended three straight seasons in College Park, with the latter two concluding with a title bout.
After winning states last year and breezing through this year’s semifinals, Perry Hall exudes coziness in the Xfinity Center.
“This is like a second home for us,” said a proud Hardnett, who will play his college ball at the University of Cincinnati.
“I feel like Tim Duncan [because] I’ve been here so many times,” echoed guard Tyler Holley, who will spend his college career playing quarterback for Morgan State University. “Now we’re just having fun with it.”
The Gators’ scoring was well-balanced, but Hardnett and Anthony Higgs (Ole Miss), were outshined by a couple of football-playing teammates. Holley finished with 17, and Xavier Gravette, a future Morgan State wide-receiver, came off the bench for a game-high 19 points.
The Trojans are propelled by young legs and impressed in the first quarter. Freshman Jordan Hawkins got off to a great start, hitting a couple threes and absorbing contact for an and-one on his first three touches. His counterpart, Jao Ituka, was just as aggressive, and the two ninth-graders combined to score 32 points in the deflating loss.
Outside of their first-year players, senior point guard Kevin Neal provided a needed third threat with consistent penetration, but ultimately Perry Hall’s size across the board was just too much. The Gators forced 14 turnovers and blocked nine shots.
The Gators will defend their title on Saturday against the Bladensburg Mustangs.
Old Mill vs Bladensburg -
No opportunity wasted.
Bladensburg’s motto is one that sticks in each player’s psyche and has impacts every dribble. The Mustangs savored their latest opportunity, galloping to a 69-53 win over the Old Mill Patriots to advance to the state final.
The Patriots played a scrappy, hard-fought game, having to claw their way out of a couple double-digit deficits before the final buzzer. After a 10-2 run brought the score within two points, a nail-biter seemed inevitable. The Mustangs finally clicked at the start of the fourth quarter, going on an 18-6 run and sealing their date with Perry Hall for a title.
Bladensburg totes the Maryland 4A Player of the Year in 6’7” senior forward Daniel Oladapo. He started slow, scoring 12 points through three quarters. A hard foul at the end of the third aggravated a back injury and woke him up, all in unison. He ended with 27.
With Oladapo awoke and hungry, the final quarter sprouted a monster 18-6 Mustangs run that hushed any plausible comeback scenario for Old Mill.
The Patriots only graduate five players, and after they collectively scored just eight points, it’s safe to say Old Mill has at least one good year ahead of them.
The Mustangs have one more chance to reaffirm that motto. They take on the defending 4A champs, Perry Hall Saturday night at the Xfinity Center with a ring on the line.