CATONSVILLE – The old adage that it's hard to beat a team three times in a season proved to be true again on Sunday.
Jelani Reid scored 21 points and blocked a pair of shots, but the Key boys basketball team fell to Saints Peter and Paul, 61-49, on Sunday in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference final at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County's RAC Arena.
Key (14-7) went undefeated in the C Conference in the regular season, including a pair of wins over the Sabres. The Obezags had also won 10 games in a row prior to Sunday's loss.
The Obezags watched Saints Peter and Paul's Conor Mullaney score 15 points on five 3-pointers in the first half, but still went into the break with a 30-28 lead. Key held Mullaney scoreless in the second half, but were getting beat to the basket on drives and gave up a host of second-chance points.
"We weren't rotating as well defensively in the second half," Key coach Joe Mathews said. "That was the difference in the game. We weren't able to keep them out of the paint in the second half."
Key used a 12-0 run to take a 15-6 lead midway through the first quarter and led by six after one. The Sabres stayed in the game by hitting three 3-pointers in the quarter and went into halftime down only two.
Key maintained the narrow lead until the final minutes of the third quarter, but scored only two points over the final three minutes and trailed by four heading to the fourth. After scoring just two points in the first half, Nick DeLuca scored seven in the third for Saints Peter and Paul.
Key's offensive production wasn't much better in the fourth quarter when it hit four field goals and scored just nine points. Still, after Reid hit a 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 20 seconds left, the Obezags tied the game. However, the Sabres closed on a 14-2 run to clinch the title and prevent the Obezags from winning their second C Conference title.
"This wasn't typical for us. We usually score a lot of points," Mathews said. "But, you have to take your hat off to them. They played a good game."
Jyoti Lewis, one of just two seniors for Key, finished with nine points and 13 rebounds.
"It was great. I think I played on some of the best teams we had at Key school," said Lewis, who was also a standout soccer player and helped his team win the C Conference title in 2013. "It's been a fantastic run, and I'm glad I could at least leave with one banner."
Key's other senior, Johnny Jenkins, had two points and five rebounds. His only basket came midway through the second quarter when he barely beat the shot clock on a catch-and-shoot to give Key a 20-16 lead.
Losing just two seniors means several key members of this year's team returns next year. In addition to Reid, Michael Jackson (eight points, five rebounds) returns to form a solid one-two scoring punch, similar to this year.
"We have some guys on the bench who are ready to step in next year, so we'll be back," Mathews said. "We have some year-round basketball players who are committed to the game. I think we'll come back strong."
Ricky Bauer finished with a team-high 16 points, including 10 in the second half, and Mullaney finished with 15 points and four rebounds for the Sabres. DeLuca scored seven of his nine points in the second half and added a team-high 13 rebounds.
Sts. Peter & Paul (15-6)11171518-61Key (14-7)1713910-49
Sts. Peter & Paul (61)
Hollis 3 2-2 8; Powell 2(1) 2-6 7; Mullaney 5(5) 0-0 15; Bauer 7 2-2 16; DeLuca 4 1-4 9; Mangold 3 0-0 6; Harrington 0 0-0 0; Schroeder 0 0-0 0; Warpinski 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 24(6) 7-14 61.
Reid 8(3) 2-4 21; J. Jenkins 1 0-0 2; Jackson 4 0-0 8; Kelly 1 1-2 3; Lewis 4 1-2 9; E. Jenkins 2(1) 1-2 6; Brockhurst 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 20(4) 5-10 49