By Kevin O’Rourke
At halftime of Tuesday night’s basketball game between Seneca Valley and Damascus, it did not look good for the Seneca Valley boys team. They were down 27-19 and struggling to put the ball in the hoop from long range.
Seneca Valley came into the Damascus gym with a target on their backs. The Screamin’ Eagles have been soaring of late. They were riding a five-game win-streak with back-to-back-back victories over Einstein, Rockville and Wheaton. One might assume that they 10-6 Eagles were due for a break down.
However, a 25-point fourth-quarter performance brought Seneca back. The fourth quarter saw Seneca Valley eat away at the six-point lead that Damascus held to start the quarter. As the quarter rolled on, Seneca Valley would cut the lead to four or three and the Hornets would manage to pull away again.
“I thought we were allowing them to dictate the game,” said Seneca Valley Head Coach Brian Humphrey of his team’s play in the first half. “(Damascus) was running a little box and one. We were taking soft shots, long jumpers and runners. I talked to my guys about some alignment things and where to be and to attack the basket. If are attacking the basket, we are a much better team than when we are settling for shots.”
Damascus led by six points, 56-50, with 1:30 remaining in the fourth, when Seneca Valley’s Humphrey called a time-out. Seneca Valley came out of the time-out and sophomore guard Kareem Mathew attacked the basket for a layup which narrowed the lead to four, 56-52.
On the next trip, Damascus’s Matthew Torrence would get fouled by Seneca’s freshman guard Triston Price. Torrence, who finished the game with nine points, would make only the back-end of the two foul shots, but extended the lead 57-52.
Seneca Valley’s Dejaun Smith would sink a three-point jumper from the top of the key. They would be the junior point guard’s only points of the game but they would be huge and cut the lead to just two, with :52 seconds remaining.
The game would be tied after Seneca Valley’s Quenton Twyman, who had 13 of his 20 points in the last stanza, put back a rebound with :43 seconds to go.
The Eagles would foul down the stretch. Kareem Mathew put the Hornet’s Duane Davis on the line, but he was only able to convert one of the two shots. Damascus would the lead back 58-57 with just :32.6 seconds remaining.
Seneca Valley’s next possession would kill 23 seconds, as Price dribbled in and dished to Twyman under the basket. Twyman would dribble out to the left and throw a long dangerous pass across court. The pass would be corralled by sophomore Brandon Simpson.
Simpson, who had 10 points on the night, would dribble-penetrate and miss with a finger roll. He would collect his own rebound and bounce it off the glass and wide for a second shot. Simpson would again manage to grab the rebound and go back up to give the Eagles the lead and the 59-58 victory with just 9.6 seconds left in the game.
“After spending years fighting for things, these guys never give up,” said Coach Humphrey after the game. “They never give up. Beating Einstein twice and Wheaton last game, they don’t give up. We did not play our best basketball by any stretch of the imagination. I thought we were a little soft early, but the guys rallied around and kept fighting. It wasn’t pretty but we’ll take it.”
After the win Tuesday, Seneca Valley is 11-6 overall and clinch the top spot in the 3A/2A Division with an 11-2 division record. Damascus falls to 7-9 overall and 5-3 in the division. Seneca Valley has improved from a one win season last year to
Seneca Valley has improved from a one win season last year and dropping their first four games of this season, to clinching the top spot in the division with a week left in the regular season and the future holds the promise of things getting better. “We are a very young team,” said Humphrey after the game. “Everybody that played tonight was either a freshman, sophomore or junior. It can take them a while to learn.”
“We were real confident when we brought in Coach Humphrey that this was the guy that was going to turn the program around,” said Seneca Valley Athletic Director Jesse Irvin. “We still have a long way to go. But it is nice to see them playing together and working hard. I expected them to be competitive. I like tonight’s game, because they didn’t play a very good game and they still won. A sign of a good team is when you can play poorly in several aspects of the game and still come away with a win. It is a good sign.”
The Screaming Eagles have one more divisional game against 2-14 Poolesville on Friday night and then ramp up to the playoffs against some of the toughest teams in Montgomery County. They will host 9-9 Clarksburg on Tuesday, Feb. 17 and travel to 15-3 Magruder on Friday, Feb. 20.
Top: Seneca Valley’s freshman guard Triston Price (12) shoots a lay-up for two of his seven points in the Eagles victory over Damascus on Tuesday night.
Next: Quenton Twyman’s (10) layup cuts the Damascus lead to six points with 1:30 remaining in the game.
Next: Seneca Valley’s Coach Humphrey talks to his team during a time-out in the final minutes of the victory over Damascus.
Next: Dejaun Smith (2) launches a three-pointer which cuts the lead to two points.
Next: Sophomore Brandon Simpson (3) collects his rebound and scores the game winning basket, which clinches the 3A Division for Seneca Valley.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.