“This is the greatest group of players to ever come through Seneca Valley,” said Seneca Valley Head Coach Brian Humphrey after Thursday night’s 66-59 loss to Potomac in the Maryland State 3A Semifinal game at the Xfinity Center on the University of Maryland Campus in College Park.
Humphrey was talking about a senior class that played in three straight regional championship games and made two straight trips to the 3A semifinal game. “We didn’t want to lose, but to get to this spot is awesome,” he told reporters after the game. “To be fortunate enough to get here twice in a row is awesome, to play for the region three times in a row is awesome. After being a JV coach for eight years and during all that time going to the regional game was a dream.”
The Screamin’ Eagles finish the 2016-2017 campaign 24-2, one loss in December in a holiday tournament and a Thursday’s loss in College Park.
In the end, the Eagles fell prey to the one weakness they had as a team — size. For all their wins this season, Seneca’s tallest player, senior Brandon Simpson, was just 6-foot, 4-inches. After the season-opening win, Coach Humphrey joked, ““We are all guards this year. As you can see we aren’t big, we don’t have a legit center, but we will outwork any team.”
The Eagles did just that all season long including in the final game of their season against a much bigger Wolverines from Potomac High School in Prince Georges County. Seneca and Potomac traded leads throughout the game, and Potomac did not hold a lead of more than four points until late in the fourth quarter.
All but one of Potomac’s starters were taller than the tallest Seneca player. The Wolverines had nine players on their roster taller than Simpson.
However, that didn’t stop the Seneca Valley team from out-rebounding the big men from Potomac in the semifinal game 39 to 32. Indeed, both Simpson and 5-foot, 11-inch senior Tyran Crawford had more rebounds than every player on the Potomac team. Simpson had 12 rebounds, and Crawford had nine rebounds in the game. The size showed in blocked shots, Potomac had nine blocked shots.
“They did have more size than us, and that caught up with us a little bit,” said Humphrey. The size advantage came into play as Seneca was forced to work harder and be more aggressive to get to loose balls. As has been the hallmark of this team, the Eagles played tough defense. Seneca forced Potomac into 16 turnovers and had five blocked shots and nine steals.
Playing tough defense against a bigger team will often result in foul problems, and that was one of the issues that plagued the Eagles late in the game. Coach Humphrey had to be a bit cagey with minutes for some of his starters in the fourth quarter.
Crawford fouled out with five fouls, and Trevon Lucas and Triston Price tagged with four each, and Simpson and Harold Dotson each had three fouls. As a team, Seneca was called for 23 fouls, resulting in Potomac shooting 15 of 25 from the foul line. Potomac was only called for fouls 15 times, resulting in just nine points on 17 attempts.
“Defense has been our staple all year, and I thought that the buckets that Potomac did get were very difficult ones,” said Humphrey. Potomac was led by six-foot, six-inch senior Travis Henson who had 22 points, including shooting three-for-four from three-point land. He also had seven rebounds. “We worked on three different defenses this week to slow Travis Henson down,” said Humphrey.
The only other Wolverine in double-digits was six-foot, four-inch senior Ryle Burley who added 12 points and eight rebounds.
Seneca Valley had three players in double-digits, Simpon led all scorers with 26 points and 13 rebounds, Tyran Crawford added 12 points and nine rebounds, and Kareem Matthew had 10 points and four rebounds.
“When a team has that big of a size advantage it makes it difficult. They are able to get blocks and layups that we would have against a smaller team. Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way,” said Coach Humphrey. “We will hold these memories close for a very, very long time. We are blessed."
Top: Seneca Valley’s Brandon Simpson (3) soars toward the basket for two of his 26 points in Thursday’s Maryland State 3A Semifinal game versus Potomac.
Video: Seneca’s Brandon Simpson (3) slams home the alley-oop pass from Harold Dotson (40).
Next: Tyran Crawford (5) takes a jump shot during Thursday’s state semifinal game. Crawford finished with 12 points.
Video: Senior Zack Robinson (11) hits a two-point jumper.
Next: Senior Tyran Crawford (5) goes up for a shot, while defended by Potomac’s Ryle Burley (1).
Next: Senior Kareem Matthew (4) drive the baseline defended by Potomac’s Burley (1). Matthew finished with 10 points on the night.
Next: The Seneca Valley Screaming Eagles honored former player Andrew Dantzler all season by wearing the number 2 on their shooting shirts.
Photos and videos by Germantown Pulse.
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