There will be a new champion in the 3A East region this year. Reservoir, behind a balanced attack that produced six players with eight or more points, made sure of that Tuesday night with its 72-66 victory over Centennial.
Sophomore Seth Henry led the way with 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Gators, who took advantage of a 7-0 run just before halftime to open up a lead they never lost the rest of the way. Centennial, which saw its bid for a third consecutive regional title come to an end with the loss, was led by senior Omari Ringgold’s game-high 28 points.
“That’s a team (Centennial) that’s a two-time regional champion for a reason — well coached with a lot of experience — and I told the kids nothing was going to be easy tonight. It was on us to come out and take it from them,” Reservoir coach Mike Coughlan said. “So to come out and play like we did, getting this program to that next level, it’s a testament to this group of guys.
“Last year was the (program’s) first playoff wins, now it’s the first regional championship game and it’s definitely fitting that we had to get through Centennial to do it.”
Reservoir (18-6) advances into a regional title game matchup on Friday night against Annapolis, who was crowned Anne Arundel County champions a couple weeks ago and defeated Wilde Lake in the other region semifinal Tuesday, 77-57.
Centennial, which was coming off a triple-overtime victory over River Hill in the quarterfinals, ends the season 16-9 overall.
Getting that shot at Annapolis on Friday, definitely took some resiliency by the Gators.
Early on, Reservoir established control behind a couple quick threes by Cody Toler (11 points) and Kyle Reilly (8) and then extended its lead up to nine by early in the second quarter by hitting the offensive glass.
Henry and James Simms (9 points, 8 rebounds) did a lot of the heavy lifting inside, creating a 20-11 advantage with 6:52 left in the first half following one stretch of four consecutive offensive rebounds.
“I told the kids early in that second quarter, after that succession of offensive rebounds, hard work like that is what was going to win this game,” Coughlan said. “We were in foul trouble, making a few mistakes, but if we continued to play hard with that kind of energy good things were going to happen.”
Henry, who tied a career-high with his 16 points and hit a couple elbow jumpers at the onset to get going, said confidence played a big role for him.
“For me, if I make one, I feel like they’re all going to go in,” Henry said. “I scored early and I felt good pretty much for the rest of the game.”
Centennial, though, playing in front of a student section that had filled their side of the gym well before tip off, came roaring back.
Ringgold delivered a couple threes, Chase Conley (12 points, 9 rebounds) got going and the Eagles put together an 8-0 spurt during the middle of the quarter to tie the game at 24.
But just as quickly as Centennial had grabbed the momentum, Reservoir found a way to steal it right back. After a couple traded baskets, the Gators closed the half on a 7-0 run to go into the locker room up 33-26.
“That was a big two minutes. We had made a solid run and Reservoir deserves a lot of credit for coming back and hitting right back at us,” Centennial coach Chad Hollwedel said. “I don’t know that their run brought us down so much as it picked Reservoir up. But we had them for a moment on their heels and they just stepped up and said ‘not going to happen.’ They showed tremendous resolve.”
Using that momentum from the end of the half, Reservoir scored the first four points of the third quarter to open up the game’s first double-digit advantage, 37-26.
“We basically treated it like it was 0-0 at halftime and that we couldn’t let up at all,” Simms said. “We knew we had to get the lead up as much as we could.”
Simms was right about needing to extend the cushion, as Ringgold single-handedly kept the Eagles close in the third quarter by scoring nine points in one four-minute span.
“Omari took us on his shoulders against River Hill and scored a school-record 42 points and he did it again tonight,” Hollwedel said. “They were bumping him, making his life as difficult as they could make it, and he was not to be denied.”
Every time Centennial would close the gap, though, the Gators would answer with a lay-up or jumper to keep them behind by at least two possessions.
Then, in the closing minute of the third quarter and opening minute of the fourth, Reservoir issued the knockout blow. An 11-1 run, punctuated by a 3-point play by Simms, gave the Gators their largest lead of the night, 54-38.
Centennial kept coming down the stretch, getting a trio of 3-pointers from Timi Tinuyoe (13 points) and a couple more 3-point plays from Ringgold. Reservoir simply came up with enough baskets and made foul shots to never let the Eagles get closer than six points.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times in one season and Centennial’s a playoff team, that’s when they always play their best, so you knew they were coming,” Henry said. “It was all about playing smart and making the most of the opportunities we did get.”
Aaron McDonald (12 points) ended up making four of four from the line in the final minute, along with 2-of-2 from Danny O’Hagan, to help seal the game and create the final six-point margin. As the buzzer sounded, Reservoir’s student section emptied onto the floor to celebrate the victory.
“I can’t describe this feeling right now … it’s like nothing I’ve experienced before,” Simms said. “We all just want to find a way to keep this going.”
Reservoir 72, Centennial 66
Re (18-6): Henry 16, McDonald 12, Toler 11, Simms 9, Christian 8, Reilly 8, Williams 4, O’Hagan 2, Brooks 2.
C (16-9): Ringgold 28, Tinuoye 13, Conley 12, Benson 5, Fletcher 4, Olmstead 2, Eads 2.
Half: 33-26 Re.
Other 3A East score:
Annapolis 77, Wilde Lake 57
A (18-6): Smith 23, J. Brown 16, W. Brown 15, Glover 12, Turner 5, Remaley 3, Pratt 2, White 1.
WL (11-14): Groves 16, Calloway 11, Jackson 10, Handy 7, D. Jackson 6, Evans 4, Parris 2, Matthews 1.
Half: 39-33 A.