It seemed the postseason started early on Friday night as Seneca Valley hosted Clarksburg for a game that felt more like a playoff matchup than the last regular season game of the season. The large crowd with supporters of both teams added to the intensity for the Eagles’ senior night send-off, which saw Seneca Valley’s outstanding senior point guard, Triston Price return to action for the first time in more than a month.
After allowing a 20 point lead to evaporate, Seneca Valley was able to hold off a hard-charging Clarksburg team to win 59-52. The Eagles end the regular season 15-7, and the Coyotes drop to an even 11-11 on the year.
Seneca Valley had 11 fast-break points in the first quarter to help build the lead.
“We looked like ourselves there for a while in the first half and for a bit in the second half,” said Seneca Valley Head Coach Brian Humphrey. The Eagles led 26-7 after the first quarter, and much of that was attributable to Price’s return from an MCL injury suffered Jan. 12 in a game against Northwood. “Triston was on a timer so we could only play him for two minutes and we had to take him out,” said Humphrey. “As a result, we would get into a flow, and he’d come, and we’d get out of that flow, and get back in when he was playing.”
In limited time and playing at about 80 percent of his capacity, Price was able to score 13 points, on five field goal, and a three-pointer.
“I had to keep the injury out of my head and just play for my team,” said Price. “I had to keep my composure. I am just happy I am playing again. This is my last regular season game. It feels good.”
Seneca was led by sophomore Mazae Blake who netted 17 points on three-twos, and three-threes and shot two from the foul line. In all, the Eagles had four players in double-digits, Price, Blake, and seniors Harold Dotson and Manasseh Joaquin. Joaquin added 11 points, and Dotson had 10 points in the game.
Humphrey expects to have Price for the entire postseason run. “That is the goal. It is nice that we have about a week and a half until our first game. It will be up to the trainer how much he can go. His health is the most important thing. Hopefully, he will be well enough that we can extend out that time frame that he plays. When Triston, Harold (Dotson) and Zae (Blake) are on the floor, it makes for a tough combination to stop.”
“I am just trying to put extra work in to get back to the Xfinity Center and the state finals. I have the brace on, and I just have to adjust to playing with it. I am playing for my teammates and my man that is not here anymore,” he said clutching the No. 2 jersey he wears in honor of Andrew Dantzler who died in tragic swimming accident days after graduating in 2016.
When Price was a sophomore, Dantzler was the senior point guard, and the two became close friends as Dantzler took the younger player under his wing. The team continues to stay “True 2 Drew” wearing Dantzler’s No.2 on their warm-up tee shirts.
The Coyotes are a team that has shown throughout the season that they have the ability to be explosive offensively. Clarksburg was down by 25 points at one point in the second quarter but were able to rebound to cut Seneca’s lead to 15 by halftime.
The Coyotes came out of the gate in the third quarter to go on a nine-zero run. Clarksburg outscored Seneca 16-8 in the third, led in large part by Stephen Armstrong’s 11 points in the quarter. He would go on to lead all scorers with 23 points in the game. By the end of the third quarter, the Coyotes were able to cut the lead to 42-36 and set up a wild final quarter.
The Coyotes had two other players in double digits, seniors Kene Okafor and Alex Behzadi each had 10 points.
Clarksburg continued to chip away at the Seneca lead, which would be just five points by the 2:07 mark in the fourth quarter. Armstrong added another 10 points down the stretch, scoring 17 of his 23 points in the second half. He would go on to lead all scorers.
The Eagles defense would bend but not break. With 1:19 remaining Clarksburg cut the lead to three points, 55-52 on a rebound put-back by Armstrong, but the Eagles would pull away in the final minute. Harold Dotson would get a handle on a loose ball in the Seneca defensive zone and race up the court, flip a pass to a streaking Price who finished with an easy layup to put the Eagles up 59-52 with just 8.8 seconds remaining.
In other Germantown boys’ basketball news, the Northwest Jaguars completed the best season in school history with a 78-72 victory at Northwood. The Jags end the regular season 19-3 and will be the top seed in the 4A West Regional Playoffs.
The Jags earned the top seed because of their 71-64 victory over Gaithersburg, which ended the regular season with the same record in the Division, but the head-to-head win gave Northwest the top seed.
The official seeding and matchups for the boy's playoff tournament will be completed on Tuesday, Feb. 20 and games will begin Friday, Feb. 23. However, Seneca Valley and Northwest are expected to get each get a bye in the first round.
Top: Seneca Valley sophomore Mazae Blake (5) drives to the basket. He finished with 17 points to lead the Eagles.
Next: Clarksburg senior Stephan Armstrong (23) lead all scorers with 23 points in the game.
Next: In the final seconds Seneca Valley senior Harold Dotson (11) grabbed a steal and raced up the court on a fast break and flipped the ball to fellow senior Triston Price who was streaking up the court.
Next: Triston Price finished the fastbreak and sealed the victory with an easy layup after getting the flip from Dotson.
Video: Northwest senior Adrian Thomas with a basket during the Jags’ victory over Northwood on Friday. Video courtesy Northwest Principal Jimmy D’Andrea.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.