GERMANTOWN — They never lost hope. Even after trailing by 13 in the waning minutes of the third quarter, and failing to secure a sliver of momentum as each possession subsided, Seneca Valley never buckled to an Oakdale squad that doled blow after blow. With the gas tank sputtering, one crutch hoisted the promising season that was now on life support: Inspiration.
“After all that’s happened, there’s no way the guys are going to give up,” Humphrey said. “We just had to keep grinding.”
Going out like this wasn’t an option. Andrew Dantzler and Jimmy Humphrey needed them to come through, just one final push.
In a matter of five minutes, the 13-point deficit became a two-point Seneca Valley lead. Oakdale took control once more with 26 seconds to go, but on the ensuing possession, Kareem Matthew “needed to go.”
After two timeouts to configure, and with 10 seconds left, Matthew received an inbounds pass at the top of the key, knifed through the lane, side-stepped to create separation and dropped the final dagger to give No. 4 Seneca Valley a palpitating 53-52 victory over No. 8 Oakdale in the Class 3A West Section I final.
“I knew I had to make a play, 10 seconds left,” Matthew said, who finished with 11 points. “Just needed to go.”
— The Ace Project (@_theaceproject) March 3, 2017
Dantzler, a former Seneca Valley player, and Jimmy Humphrey, the father of Screamin’ Eagles coach Brian Humphrey, both died in separate incidents over the past 13 months. Ever since, Seneca Valley (23-1) has carried a do-whatever-it-takes attitude into every game, and on Saturday, they’ll play in their third straight Class 3A West region title because of it.
“Every huddle, every timeout,” Seneca Valley senior forward Brandon Simpson said. “Every time we talked to each other, we said their name.”
Never say die. After Oakdale mounted a 46-33 lead via a Sean Jodrie 3-pointer, Seneca Valley stormed off a 17-1 run to take a 51-47 lead with under four to go. Oakdale’s Cory Schlee (16 points) muscled into the lane for the go-ahead layup with 26 seconds left to make it 52-51 before Matthew clutched the paramount runner.
Under-4 to go: No. 4 Seneca Valley vs. No. 8 Oakdale https://t.co/9O79KpGaz7
— Kyle McFadden (@k_fadd) March 3, 2017
Oakdale, riding a 15-game winning streak into Thursday, had one last possession with 5.8 seconds left, but Collin Schlee’s contested jumper fizzled, landing well short of the basket.
Seneca Valley switched to a 1-3-1 late in the third quarter, and stifled the Bears, holding them to six points the final 12 minutes. Oakdale also didn’t help themselves with a 3-for-7 mark from the free throw line in the second half, including three front-end misses on one-and-one situations.
“We knew we had to switch it up against them,” Humphrey said. “They’re so efficient offensively.”
In the opening four minutes of regulation, Seneca Valley forced three quick turnovers and used a Simpson 3 to take an 8-4 lead. Oakdale countered with a 7-0 burst to jump ahead 11-8 before ripping off an 18-2 run to balloon the advantage to 24-10 in the early minutes of the second period.
Seneca Valley hung tight, and trimmed Oakdale’s lead to 34-27 at halftime.
“Everything we preach, just focus on yourself, one play at a time,” Humphrey said. “Like all the boys, we trust them.”
Oakdale slowly pulled away to open the third quarter, getting a Brad Foster putback, Drew Jezioro layup and Jodrie trey to make it 41-33, 43-33 and 46-33. That’s when Seneca Valley whittled away.
The Screamin’ Eagles went in the final frame on a 9-1 run and cut Oakdale’s lead to 47-44, using four key points from Simpson and a trey from Matthew.
Trey Lucas, who made all four of his free throw attempts in the fourth quarter, and Robinson’s 3 gave Seneca Valley the momentum it needed to host No. 11 Tuscarora for the region title game this Saturday at 2 p.m.
“That in itself, coming from eight years as a JV coach, just getting to one region final was a dream,” Humphrey said. “Three? That’s amazing.”
Even though Tuscarora handed Seneca Valley their only loss this year on Dec. 26 by 12 points, you can guarantee they’ll bring one thing that will always keep them afloat.
“We have heart,” Matthew said. “We have heart.”