Seneca Valley didn’t even look at the panic button. Not once. Not when Oakdale took an 11 point lead in the first quarter. Not when Seneca came all the way back to make it a one-point game in the second quarter, but Oakdale went on a run to take a 12 point lead. Seneca Valley continued to persevere and stole the victory from Oakdale in the final seconds to win 53-52.
The Screamin’ Eagles didn’t even consider thinking about panicking. “Not at all,” said senior Kareem Matthew, after the game. The game in which he nailed the winning basket with just seven ticks remaining. “We know that we weren’t playing our best. We knew that we had to change a few things, they were giving us different looks. Coach had a great game plan, and we got the win.”
They got the win after Matthew got an open look with after an inbound for Trevon Lucas. They got the win in the 3A West Reginal Semi-Final Playoff game after trailing for almost the entire game. They got the win because they were able to keep their heads, while everyone else in the packed Seneca Valley gym was losing their minds.
“I was looking for an open teammate first, but I didn’t see anybody open,” said Matthew about his game-winning shot. “I knew the time was rolling down and I had to try to make a play. I knew I had a great mid-range jump shot. I just had to believe in it. As soon as I pulled up and let it go, it felt great, and I knew I had it.”
“I had to believe in it.” That belief in themselves, in the Seneca Valley basketball family, is something that has been a source of pride and inspiration for the Eagles through two seasons. Last year the Eagles were galvanized by the death of Jimmy Humphrey, father of head coach Brian Humphrey. It brought the coach and his players together and created a family. In the off-season, the team was touched by another off-court loss, when their teammate and friend Andrew Dantzler died in tragic swimming accident days after graduating last June.
The team has dedicated this season to Drew. The Screamin’ Eagles stay True 2 Drew at every game, every practice, every meeting, every time they take the court. They wear shooting shirts which are all number 2, Dantzler’s number.
No, there was no panic. “We preach stay in the moment,” said Coach Brian Humphrey. “After all we’ve been through with my father passing and Drew passing and after the tough loss in the State semis last year – there was no panic. These guys had been involved in a significant playoff run last year which helps a lot. We won a lot of lopsided games this year, but we were able to draw on past experiences to help us through.”
Seneca Valley was led by senior Brandon Simpson with 12 points. Simpson admitted that it wasn’t his best game and credited Oakdale with shutting down his offense early in the game.
“It was a good fight,” he said. “It was a good game. They took me out of my game, I couldn’t get anything going, and my team stepped up. (Oakdale) wasn’t letting me touch the ball. They were giving me no space. They can shut down one player, but there is still four other players that they have to stop and my teammates stepped up.”
Matthew’s scored the game’s first points in the opening quarter, and its last points — the game-winner gave the senior 11 points in the game.
After jumping out to an early six-point lead, Oakdale settled in and rattled off eight points to take the lead. A lead they would hold until the 6:49 mark in the fourth quarter when senior Zack Robinson nailed a three-pointer to give the Eagles a 49-47 lead. The ball found Robinson in an open spot in front of the Seneca Valley student section, and he calmly drained the 3-ball and sent the Seneca students into a frenzy.
Seneca Valley’s defense held Oakdale to just five points for the entire fourth quarter. Robinson’s three combined with Trevon Lucas’ sinking all four foul shots in the fourth quarter gave the Eagles a 51-49 lead. The score would remain the same until Oakdale’s Colin Schlee made a foul shot to cut the lead to 51-50.
But Oakdale would not go away easy. After Seneca’s Brandon Simpson knocked an Oakdale pass out of bounds with 0:33 seconds remaining, the Bears would score on the inbound play. Oakdale's big man, Cory Schlee would take the inbound pass and find the basket to give Oakdale a 52-51 lead. Cory Schlee led all scorers with 16 points, while his brother Colin Schlee pitched in 11 points.
After a Seneca Valley timeout, it was time for Kareem Matthew to believe in his mid-range jumper and win the game for the home team.
The belief and the ability to stay in the moment is what makes the Seneca Valley team go. Yes, their ability to play great help defense and team quickness may win games over lesser opponents, but their heart, their dedication to team and the Seneca family are what allows them to win games over excellent opponents. And much of that heart comes from their coach.
Brian Humphrey took over this program in the 2014-2015 season, ago after the team had won just one game the previous two seasons. Through the loss in the Regional Finals to Linganore in 2015, the loss of his father in January of 2016, the difficult loss in the Maryland State Semi-Final game in March, and the death of Drew Dantzler three months later this team has displayed that heart both on and off the court.
Seneca Valley will host Tuscarora in the 3A West Regional Final on Saturday, March 4 at 2:00 pm in Germantown, where the Screaming Eagles haven’t lost since the day after Jimmy Humphrey passed exactly 400 days ago.
The Tuscarora Titans will come to Germantown with a 21-3 record, having defeated Linganore on 55-41 on Thursday night. However, Seneca Valley will be looking for payback as the Titans handed the Eagles the only blemish on their 23-1 record back in a holiday tournament on December 26. However, back on Feb. 21, Tuscarora lost to the Oakdale team which Seneca Valley just defeated.
Top: Seneca Valley’s Tyran Crawford (5) takes the ball to the hoop during Thursday’s thrilling 3A West Semi-Final victory over Oakdale.
Video: Senior Kareem Matthew (4) grabs and inbound pass from Trevon Lucas and puts up jump shot to take the lead in the final 7 seconds of the game and seal the victory for Seneca Valley.
Next: Seneca Valley senior Zack Robinson (11) drains a three-point shot in front of the Seneca student section to give the Eagles the lead for the first time with 6:40 remaining in the game.
Video: Brandon Simpson (3) posts up and finds the basket for two of his 12 points in the game.
Next: Trevon Lucas (1) with a finger roll early in the game. He finished with nine points including four free-throws in the final 4:00 minutes.
Photos and video by Germantown Pulse
All of the photos in this post, as well as hundreds of others from this game, are available to view and purchase right now at the Germantown Pulse Sports Photo Shop.