ROCKVILLE – Seneca Valley manifests their brand of basketball like no other.
The Screamin’ Eagles don’t care if they only have one forward on their 14-man roster, or that their tallest player is a smidgen under 6-foot-5. Instead they’ll suffocate you out of the gym with unrelenting ball-pressure and blitzing of the offensive glass behind some of the swiftest and unbridled guards in the area.
“That’s our bread and butter,” Seneca Valley guard Trey Lucas said. “That’s what we do. We get up on the ball.”
On Tuesday night, No. 7 Seneca Valley played their roadrunner style to lock up home-court advantage in the Class 3A West playoffs, scoring 29 points off 27 Magruder turnovers to grind out a 73-63 win on the road.
“That’s what we wanted to do,” Lucas said of securing home-court advantage. “We want everybody to come through Seneca [Valley] to get to states.”
Disregarding the holiday tournament loss to then No. 10 Tuscarora, Seneca Valley (20-1 overall) is essentially unblemished. Since then, they’ve won 14 straight with 12 wins in double figures and 10 by 20 points or more.
They’ve also been without starting point guard Triston Price (10 points per game) for the past three weeks due to a concussion.
Though there were frustrating moments on Tuesday, the matinee against stalwart Magruder served as an appetizer for what the playoffs may bring.
After Brandon Simpson’s put-back a minute into the second quarter to extend the lead to 19-10, Magruder responded with a 6-0 burst capped by Bryan Boehlert (13 points) rim-rattling slam to draw within one possession, 21-18. With under a minute left in the first half, the Colonials whittled the Screamin’ Eagles’ lead from eight to two before Seneca Valley brought a 37-33 lead into the intermission.
“We knew it was going to be a grinder; 5:30 game on a Tuesday,” Seneca Valley Coach Brian Humphrey said. “We knew it was going to be tough. We talked to our guys before, and at half, about rebounding responsibilities. Making sure we send three to the offensive glass.”
Even though they shot 32.5 percent (22-for-68), Seneca Valley adhered Humphrey’s request, pounding Magruder for 20 second chance points and attacking the offensive glass nearly every possession.
The Screamin’ Eagles ran off a 14-3 run out of the break to push their lead 51-37 before Magruder countered with a 10-3 spring to draw it to 54-47 going into the fourth period. The Colonials threatened one last time when Boehlert made it a seven-point game with under five minutes to go, but Seneca Valley knew what at stake, and clamped down the rest of the way to reach the 20-win plateau for the second straight year.
Magruder shot 52.5 percent on 23-for-44 from the floor. Lucas and Kareem added 13 points for the Screamin’ Eagles. Simpson, a three-year varsity starter who had nine of Seneca Valley’s second chance points, finished with a game-high 20 points and will lead the pole-position Screamin’ Eagles into the playoffs looking to play in their third straight region final.
“I’m just going to tell everyone it’s like normal game, and we just have to do our job and get it done,” Simpson said. “We want to play on the big stage.”
After a top priority checked off, the grueling 3A West trek is now set to run through Germantown, a place where Seneca Valley hasn’t lost in 385 days (January 26, 2016) and counting.
“I love these guys,” Humphrey said. “A lot them have been here for three years. We just love these guys. It’s going to be hard; wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else.”