BERLIN- Perhaps it was the huge crowd or the bright lights at the Comcast Center on the campus of the University of Maryland, but Stephen Decatur’s boys’ varsity basketball team got off to a slow start and never recovered last week in the state Final Four, falling to eventual champion Milford Mill, 69-41.
Playing on the big stage in the state Class 3A semifinals last Thursday, the Seahawks struggled out of the gate, scoring just four points in the first quarter. It could have been nerves associated with playing in such a large venue with so much at stake, or perhaps the Seahawks just wore down after a remarkable run to the 3A-East region championship, but Decatur’s dream season ended just short of a state championship.
The Seahawks scored just four points in the first quarter and trailed, 12-4, after one. The slow start continued in the second quarter as Milford Mill built its lead to 16-5 early in the period. However, Decatur settled down somewhat and started to get some shots to fall as the Seahawks cut the lead to 16-12 with a 7-0 run about halfway through the second.
However, Milford Mill responded with a 12-3 run of its own in the second quarter to take a 28-15 lead into halftime. Decatur had a chance to go into the intermission trailing by a very manageable 10 points considering how the first half played out, but Milford Mill hit a big three-pointer at the buzzer to go ahead, 28-15 and the Millers never looked back.
If Decatur had shot the ball better early, they might have hung around with Milford Mill. The Seahawks shot just over 20 percent from the floor in the first two quarters and scored only 15 points. Decatur ended up shooting a respectable 36-percent from the floor in the game, but any ground the Seahawks made up in the second half was too late.
Milford Mill continued to shoot well and applied the pressure on Decatur throughout the third quarter, which ended with Millers leading 49-29. Although Decatur played much better down the stretch, Milford Mill continued to build its lead and finished with the 69-41 win.
A few telling statistics told the story for Decatur. The Seahawks scored just nine points off of turnovers, while Milford Mill scored 25. Milford Mill scored 16 points off fast breaks, while Decatur, which made a habit of forcing turnovers and scoring in transition all season, scored just two points off fast breaks. Perhaps even more telling, Milford Mill scored 54 points in the paint, while Decatur scored just 16.
Milford Mill went on to win the state 3A championship, beating Thomas Stone, 60-46, in the final. The loss in the state semifinals did little to tarnish what was a remarkable season for the Seahawks. Decatur won just seven games all year last season, but finished the regular season with an 18-4 record to earn the top seed in the state Class 3A-East region.
In the opener in the regional tournament, the Seahawks breezed past Howard, 71-47, at home but the competition got much tougher. In the region semifinals, Decatur beat Mount Hebron, 48-42, in overtime to advance to the region championship game. The Seahawks then beat Altholton, 64-55, in overtime to win their first regional championship in decades. The win propelled Decatur into the state’s Final Four in the Class 3A region and a date at the Comcast Center in College Park.
However, the magical run ended with the 69-41 loss to eventual state champion Milford Mill last Thursday. Just as he had done for much of the season, Decatur guard Cedrick Johnson led the Seahawks with 14 points in the state semifinal loss. With its run in the state playoffs, Decatur finished the season with an impressive 21-5 record.