BERLIN- Stephen Decatur’s boys’ varsity basketball team clinched its third straight 3A-East region championship last weekend with a 60-51 win over Centennial, but it certainly wasn’t easy.
The Seahawks were the top seed in the state 3A-East Region Section II bracket and beat Chesapeake, 60-45, last Wednesday to reach the region championship for the third straight year. Decatur was scheduled to play Section I winner Centennial last Friday evening, but because the nor’easter that hit the mid-Atlantic region late last week, the game was moved to Saturday afternoon in Berlin.
A sell-out crowd anxiously awaited the start of the 3A-East Region championship with a trip to the state’s Final Four at the University of Maryland on the line and they certainly weren’t disappointed. Decatur came out fast in the first quarter and built an early lead, but the game would ultimately have many ebbs and flows for both teams.
Decatur senior Kevon Voyles found Gabe Aluma under the basket for a quick 3-0 lead, then nailed a long three-pointer to make it 6-0. When Tahjeem Woodland the found Aluma again under the basket and the big center converted to extend the lead to 8-0 and Centennial called an early timeout.
Voyles then hit another three-pointer and the Decatur lead as 11-0. Centennial finally got the board with a basket at the 2:40 mark of the first quarter to cut the lead to 11-2. Decatur’s Hayden Frazier nailed a three-pointer to extend the lead to 14-2, but Centennial responded with a three-pointer of its own to cut the lead to 14-5. A put-back by Aluma extended the Decatur lead to 16-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Voyles started the second quarter with a fast-break layup followed by another three-pointer to extend the lead to 21-7. A Centennial three-pointer cut the lead to 21-10. There was a long stretch during the second quarter when the Seahawks could not get shots to fall and missed several free throws and concern was building the lapses could prove to be fateful later in the game. Centennial cut the lead to 26-17 with just over a minute remaining in the second quarter, but a layup by Ryan Danaher closed out the first half with the Seahawks leading 29-17.
Things started to unravel quickly in the third quarter, however. Centennial started the third with a 10-0 run to cut the Decatur lead to 29-27 with about five minutes left in the period. A runner by Voyles stopped the bleeding temporarily, but the Eagles responded with another basket on their next possession to cut the lead to 31-29. The Centennial crowd grew louder and louder as the Eagles clawed all the way back, while the big home crowd was decidedly quiet.
Centennial tied the game at 31-31 with just under three minutes left in the third and took its first lead of the game at 33-31 on its next possession. That’s when Voyles started taking the game over and putting his team on his back, just as he had just days earlier in the region semifinal. Voyles hit a jumper to tie the game at 33-33 and put his team ahead for good this time with a nice runner with 1:25 left in the third. Another jumper by Voyles put Decatur ahead 37-33 at the end of three quarters.
Voyles went strong to the hole to put Decatur ahead 39-35 early in the fourth, but Centennial responded with a jumper to cut the lead to 39-37. A pull-up jumper by Voyles extend the lead to 41-37 with just over five minutes remaining. A jumper by the Eagles cut the lead again to 41-39 and both teams then converted a couple of free throws to set the score at 43-41 with four minutes left.
A three-pointer by Voyles put Decatur ahead, 46-41, but a pair of free throws by Centennial cut the lead to 46-43. Voyles hit another three to extend the lead to 49-43, but again Centennial answered with a runner to cut the lead to 49-45 with around three minutes left. A layup by Danaher extended the lead to 51-45, but Centennial scored on a big dunk to cut the lead to 51-47 with two minutes remaining.
Another basket by Voyles made it 53-47 with 1:36 remaining. Danaher then made a big block and was fouled down the other end and converted the free throw to make it 54-47.
On the fast break, Voyles hit Mihail Beja streaking down the court and Beja converted the layup to extend the lead to 56-47, bringing the big home crowd to its feet. Voyles made four big free throws in the remaining minute and Decatur closed out the 60-51 win to claim their third straight 3A-East Region title.
Voyles finished with 38 points in the game, 24 of which came in the second half. After the win, the Decatur faithful flooded the court as the Seahawks received the region championship trophy and cut down the net. The Seahawks faced Poly in the region semifinals on Thursday at the Xfinity Center at the University of Maryland-College Park in a game played too late to be included in this edition. Last year, Poly eliminated Decatur in the state semifinals. If the Seahawks got by Poly, they would play in the state championship on Saturday.