Seneca Valley’s 47-42 overtime victory over Tuscarora in Saturday’s 3A West Region Championship game was one for the ages. The game which sends the Screamin’ Eagles to their second straight appearance in a Maryland State Semi-Final game was an instant classic, which will be remembered by everyone in the sold out David A. Young Gymnasium for years to come.
The beauty in sports often comes from unfortunate events, some events that can galvanize a team, electrify a school, and inspire a town. One such event happened in July of 2016, while swimming with friends in Lake Linganore, 18-year-old Andrew Dantzler — Drew to his friends —attempted to swim across the lake, in the middle of the lake he ran into trouble of some kind, he became fatigued and vanished beneath the surface of the lake.
Drew Dantzler, graduated from Seneca Valley on June 3, 2016, he was a member of the Screaming Eagle varsity basketball team which made a deep run into the Maryland State Playoffs last season culminating with a loss in the 3A State Semi-Final game.
Throughout that season, Dantzler, the senior, formed a close friendship with, then sophomore, Tristan Price. “Drew was my big brother,” said Price.
After Dantzler’s death, Price who had worn number 12 in his freshman and sophomore seasons asked the team if he could wear Dantzler’s number 2 as a way to honor his fallen brother. All the Eagles, including Head Coach Brian Humphrey, have been wearing Drew’s Number 2, on their warmup shirts. The team has adopted the motto “True2Drew” as their battle cry for this season. It is written throughout the number 2 on the warmup shirts.
“I got permission to wear his jersey,” said Price after Seneca Valley’s 47-42 victory over Tuscarora on Saturday afternoon.
A victory made possible due to Price’s ability to come through in the clutch. A victory which Price, wearing the Number 2, came through.
In a game which was a back-and-forth battle between two good teams in front of a sold-out and raucous gymnasium. Tuscarora was up by six points, 40-36, with one minute remaining in the game. Seneca Valley cut the lead to four points with a Brandon Simpson layup with 55 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing inbound pass, Seneca’s Trevon Lucas fouled Tuscarora’s Obadiah Noel, who makes the second of two free throws, to extend the lead to five points, 41-36.
On the next play, Tuscarora knocked the ball out of bounds at the Seneca Valley end line resulting in an inbound from the right of Seneca’s basket. Trevon Lucas would inbound the ball to Triston Price at the top of the key. Price would take a 3 pointer which would bounce off the rim and be tipped back to Seneca’s Kareem Matthew. Matthew would once again find an open Price at the head of the key. This time Price’s aim would be “True2Drew,” and he would nail a 3-pointer to cut the lead to two points with 33 seconds remaining.
After a Tuscarora timeout, Coach Humphrey would replace Price with senior Harold Dotson.
Tuscarora’s Kevin Bell would inbound the ball to Jaylen Washington who would catch the pass, but with his foot on the end line, resulting in a turnover and Seneca would have possession and inbound in the offensive zone.
Sensing another opportunity, Coach Humphrey put Price back in the game. The move would pay off in a big way.
Lucas would overthrow a streaking Brandon Simpson looking for a dunk to tie the game. The ball would sail over his head and be picked up by Tuscarora’s Noel who would fly up the court for an easy layup to extend the game, but the ball would bounce off the rim and be rebounded by Seneca’s Matthews.
With 24 seconds remaining, Matthews would quickly outlet to Price who began to drive right but cut back to drive to the basket down the middle of the key between two Titan defenders, Noel and Kyle Lepkowski. Price would miss the shot but draw the foul from Noel.
With 22 second remaining junior Triston Price, with ice water running through veins nailed both free throws to tie the game and give his team a chance to win in overtime and sent the Eagles in the gym soaring.
“He is wearing Drew’s jersey,” said Coach Brian Humphrey. “There was no doubt he was going to make those shots. He wanted that shot. He wanted that three-pointer. He wanted it. When he got it, and when he was on that foul line, I knew he was going to make those two shots.”
The roar in the gym from Seneca fans was deafening as Tuscarora inbounded the ball for their final possession. One which ended with the final shot falling short and ringing off the rim.
The overtime session would belong to Seneca Valley. Seneca’s Tyran Crawford would find the basket early in the overtime to give the Eagles a two-point lead. It would be added with 1:25 remaining as Price would penetrate the lane to draw defenders to him, and dish the ball to a cutting Trevon Lucas for an easy layup. Seneca now lead by four points, 45-41 with 1:24 remaining in the overtime.
With 1:13 remaining, Brandon Simpson would come up with a huge defensive stop, blocking a Marcus Waddy layup out of bounds. On the next possession, a reaching foul on Seneca Valley would send Noel to the line to shoot foul shots. Noel would make the first but miss the second, cutting the lead to 45-42.
But, it would be Triston Price who led the Eagles in scoring with 15 points in the game — wearing number 2 — who would once again shoot two to put the game out of reach. He would nail two free throws to extend the lead to 47-42 and seal the victory for Seneca and send them back to the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center for the second year in a row to play for a chance to be Maryland State Champions.
“I was thinking of my team, and I was thinking of Drew,” said Price about his thought process going into foul shots at the end of regulation. “I was thinking of everybody that supports us. I didn’t want to let nobody down. My teammates needed me.”
“When we buried [Drew], we all promised him that we were going to go back to Xfinity, and that is what we’ve been playing for— we’ve been playing for him,” said Price. “Not just because we love basketball, but because we love him.”
Coach Humphrey said the difference in the game was his team’s mental toughness. “There was so much emotion in this win. So much desire for those who are gone. It is very special. The mental toughness. The grit of our team. The never giving up spirit. We certainly weren’t playing great offensively, but mental toughness took care of it.”
“When I see someone down or mad during a game I talk to them and remind them that there is time left,” said Simpson who finished with 12 points until there are zeros on the clock we have a chance. Don’t put your head down. We can’t quit until it is over.”
Price said the team really came together as a family after Dantzler’s death. “He was supposed to be here today. He’s supposed to be here; you know what I mean? He is supposed to take the picture with us, but he’s not. We made that promise that we were going to get it done. That is what we’ve stood for the whole season. I want to show him that we never forgot about the plan, the goal to get back to Xfinity.”
Once the players finished the ceremonial cutting down of the nets at Seneca Valley, the coach climbed the ladder. Coach Humphrey taped a photo of father, Jimmy Humphrey who passed away in January of 2016, right in the middle of the Eagles’ season, and he hung Dantzler’s number 2 green jersey from the rim of the basket, prior to taking his little piece of the net as a memento.
The 24-1 Eagles will play in the Maryland State Semi-Final game on Thursday, March 9 at 5 pm at the Xfinity Center in College Park. They will face 17-7 Potomac Wolverines, who defeated Magruder 81-64 on Saturday.
Top: The 3A West Champions remained “True2Drew” all season and will advance to the Maryland State Semi-Finals after a 47-42 overtime victory over Tuscarora on Saturday. The team is posing with the mother of Andrew Dantzler who died in a swimming accident last July. He was a 2016 graduate of Seneca Valley and member of the basketball team.
Next: Senior Triston Price (2) splits defenders for a layup early in the game. He would finish with 15 points, including the last five points of regulation to tie the game and force overtime.
Video: The final 2:00 of the fourth quarter. Seneca was down by six and came back to tie the game.
Next: Seneca Valley senior Brandon Simpson (3) works for a shot. He would finish with 12 points in the game.
Video: The final seconds of the overtime period and celebration at Seneca Valley.
Next: Seneca’s Kareem Matthew (4) with a jumper. He had four points in the victory.
Next: Seneca Valley has won back-to-back 3A West Championships.
Photos and video by Germantown Pulse.
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