Unfinished Business Season To An End

BERLIN- Stephen Decatur’s boys’ varsity basketball team’s dream of the school’s first state championship since 1970 ended last week with a 74-44 loss to Poly of Baltimore in the 3A title game.

Last year, the Seahawks reached the state championship game but fell to C.M. Wright in a dramatic last-second loss in overtime. Almost immediately after that heartbreaker, Coach B.J. Johnson and his players and staff tabbed the 2016-2017 campaign as “unfinished business” as they set upon a course to return to the state championship game and they nearly made good on it after reaching the Final Four for the second year in a row.

Alas, it was not to be when the Seahawks ran into a buzz saw in Poly last Thursday at the Xfinity Center at the University of Maryland-College Park in the state 3A semifinals. Poly, which had three starters heading to Division I programs next year, for at least one day, was bigger and faster than the Seahawks and pulled away for the 30-point win in the semifinals before eventually claiming the state championship.

Throughout the season, the Seahawks clicked off several major milestones as the wins continued to pile up. The Decatur boys went a perfect 19-0 in the Bayside Conference and finished the regular season with a 23-1 mark, their only loss coming to Virginia’s top team in the Governor’s Challenge Holiday Tournament over the Christmas break. Poly, meanwhile, had seven losses, but most of them came against some of the top prep teams in the country.

Again, the Seahawks went 19-0 in conference play and captured the Bayside South title. In February, Decatur routed Bayside North champ Kent County, 71-43, to capture the school’s first-ever conference championship in boys’ basketball. The Seahawks earned the top seed in the state 3A-East Section II bracket and cruised through the first two rounds at home, beating Atholton, 77-43, and Hammond, 64-37, to win the Section II championship and return to the 3A-East championship game for the second year in a row.

Decatur met Wilde Lake in the 3A-East championship game two weeks ago and repeated as region champs for the second year in a row with a 65-55 win. The Seahawks led 16-6 after one quarter in front of a packed house at home in the region championship. Wilde Lake went on a big run in the second quarter to cut the lead to just three at 28-25 with time running down in the second, but Kevon Voyles nailed a big three-pointer at the buzzer that would prove to be a momentum changer.

Wilde Lake battled back again in the third, cutting the Decatur lead to 35-31, but the Seahawks went on a big roll through the rest of the period and took a 48-36 lead into the final quarter. The Seahawks then steadily pulled away in the fourth for the 65-55 win to capture their second straight region championship.

The win propelled Decatur into the state’s Final Four in the 3A region and the “unfinished business” goal remained very much in sight. However, it was not meant to be last Thursday against Baltimore’s Poly, which jumped out to a big early lead and never looked back on its way to a 74-44 win.

The Engineers led the Seahawks 17-6 after one quarter and had built its lead to 36-15 by halftime. Decatur never let up and kept on battling, but Poly steadily pulled away. The Engineers led 54-31 after three quarters and closed out the semifinals and a trip to the championship game with the 74-44 win.

The loss did little to tarnish what was by all accounts a remarkable season for Decatur, which went undefeated in the regular season, one its first-ever Bayside Conference title, repeated as 3A-East region champs and fell just short in the state semifinals.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.