For the third time in school history, the Dulaney boys basketball team will go to the state tournament’s final four.
Host Dulaney defeated Springbrook, 70-68, in the Class 4A North Region championship on Friday night to earn the Lions first trip to the state semifinals since 1977 when they went for the second straight year and lost in the semifinals for the second consecutive year.
Dulaney (22-3) will play Eleanor Roosevelt at the Xfinity Center at the University of Maryland on Thursday, March 14 at 7 p.m.
Dulaney coach Matt Lochte was asked it this is the biggest win in school history and he replied, “No question, we haven’t won a regional championship since 1977. I was born in ’76, so that’s over 40 years, let’s just say that, yea, this is the biggest win.”
Dulaney sophomore Ryan Conway scored a game-high 30 points and Che Evans scored the game-winning layup with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter to lift the Lions to the victory over Springbrook (16-9).
Springbrook was denied its 20th trip to the state tournament and they have won five state titles.
Ike Cornish added 14 points and Cam Byers scored 12 for the Lions.
Timitrius Hawkins led the Blue Devils with 26 points and Marcus Davis added 19.
Hawkins and Conway put on an unconscious shooting display in the second quarter that looked like they were playing one-on-one in the backyard.
Springbrook led 12-11 heading into the second quarter when Conway and Hawkins went wild.
Hawkins made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points in the quarter.
Conway scored 16 points in the quarter, including two treys.
“I know him and he knows me, it was a friendly matchup, he’s a great player and we play great as a team though,” Conway said.
By the time the quarter ended and the nets cooled off, the score was tied 34-34.
“He (Conway) didn’t miss a shot in the second quarter,” Lochte said. “That was a special, special quarter by Ryan Conway.”
It was also special for Springbrook’s senior Hawkins, who had a steal and dunk before making three straight threes in 76 seconds.
“He was unbelievable,” Lochte said.
The Dulaney coach also got inspired play and energy off the bench from understudies Jaylin Webster and Cole McGee, who spelled Cornish and Che Evans when they both got in foul trouble.
Webster hit two free throws and canned a trey and McGee had a blocked shot in the second quarter.
“Everybody was great. Our bench was huge. Jaylin Webster off the bench was phenomenal,” Lochte said. “Webster off the bench was just up for the moment, Cole McGee being up for the moment when Ike and Che were both in foul trouble was unbelievable.
Cornish, who was scoreless in the first half, came alive in the second when he scored all 14 of his points, including 10 in the third quarter.
“Ike turned it on in the third quarter,” Lochte said.
So did Springbrook’s Davis, who scored 10 points in the third quarter.
A putback by Jon Lapierre with 2:43 left gave the Blue Devils a 53-43 lead, before Webster answered with his trey.
With 1:12 left, Davis’ 3-pointer pushed the lead back to nine, 55-46, but Dulaney scored the final five points of the quarter on a 3-pointer by Byers and basket by Cornish with six seconds left.
Twice the Blue Devils bumped the lead back to nine, but after a layup by Brandon Adams made it 64-55 with 5:40 remaining, the the Lions stormed back with outstanding defense.
That included three steals by Cornish and solid defensive marking by Cameron Amoruso on Hawkins.
Amoruso held him to five points in the second half.
Conway made it 64-57 and Evans stuck a putback to draw Dulaney within five, but Daouda Dembole answered with a layup to make it 66-59.
The 6-foot-6 Byers’ second 3-pointer of the night cut the deficit to four, 66-62, with 4:41 left.
“He was missing the chippies, but then he made shots,” Lochte said. “If you are prepared and the ball ends up around you, make a play on it, whether it’s offense or defense, you make a play on it, sometimes that is going to take you out of your normal role, but you gotta make a play and big fella did that down the stretch hitting those two threes.”
With 4:04 left, Cornish hit a short jumper and the Lions trailed, 66-64.
A basket by Byers tied it at 66-all with 3:44 left and Conway made 2 of 3 free throws with 3:20 left and the Lions led 68-66.
Springbrook stemmed the tide with a steal and dunk with 2:50 left by Hawkins and it was 68-68.
That was the last time the visitors scored and Evans scored the game winner 26 seconds later.
“That was a set play, we got through the shot clock, we went with seven seconds left in the shot clock, isolation Che and he got to the rack and finished on the left side,” Lochte said.
The Lions had some anxious moments down the stretch, but they made some key stops and the Blue Devils misfired.
With 47 seconds left and trailing by two, Springbrook’s Hawkins missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Evans got the clutch rebound.
The Lions missed at the other end with 22 seconds left and Springbrook called time out.
The Blue Devils misfired on a 3-point attempt by Davis, but Lapierre got the offensive rebound and his follow attempt was blocked by Evans into the hands of Byers and he was fouled with 2.4 seconds left.
Byers missed the front end of a 1 and 1 and the Blue Devils one last chance.
After a timeout, a long pass was deflected by Cornish and the ball fell harmlessly to the floor
The Lions celebrated by posing with the crowd and cutting down the net.
“This is great. It feels great,” Cornish said.
“All this hard work finally paid off for me and my guys,” Conway said.
Lochte knew if his team played with the same energy they did all season, good things could happen.
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“We know that our pace of play, we know that our pressure, not just our full-court press, but how we attack offensively is going to eventually fatigue the opponent and we really believe that’s what happened late in the game,” Lochte said.