Centennial boys basketball beats Marriotts Ridge, 60-29, to secure sole possession of this year's county championship. (Brent Kennedy/BSMG)
It was the perfect ending to a special regular season.
On the road against Marriotts Ridge on Friday night, Centennial's boys basketball team wrapped up sole possession of this year's county championship with a convincing 60-29 victory.
The win marked the Eagles' largest margin of victory this season (31 points), fewest points allowed and, most importantly, secured a title that no member of this year's team had won before. For coach Chad Hollwedel, who most recently led the program to a county championship back during the 2011-12 season, it was a special moment to get to celebrate with this group of guys.
"It's funny to think about, but like Tom (Brown) and EJ (Fowler) were there at Comcast Center in middle school watching the last Centennial team that won one of these. So it's a feeling like it's been building and there's a sense of pride in becoming an Eagle and building toward something like this," Hollwedel said. "It's been a lot of fun to watch this group come together and become the team they are today."
Centennial (18-1, 20-2) knew coming in what was at stake and played like a team on a mission from the opening tip. The Eagles raced out to a 14-2 advantage in the opening four minutes on the backs of the team's big three — Isaiah White (24 points), Chad Strothers (14) and Tom Brown (11).
By the midway point of the second quarter, following a three by White, that lead had ballooned to 18 points, 27-9.
"We just straight asked them before the game, 'Do you guys want to share a county title or do you want to win it outright? I think they answered that in the first four minutes of the game," Hollwedel said.
The Eagles would end up blowing things wide open after halftime by outscoring Marriotts Ridge (4-15, 5-17) 21-2 in the first 10 minutes following intermission.
Centennial briefly celebrated in its locker room following the win, but for all the smiles and congratulations being passed around, there was still an air of unfinished business.
"As a senior, it (means) a lot. But I don't think we're done yet … I think we can go farther," White said. "It's good, but we're still hungry."
Looking back on the team's journey so far this season, Hollwedel said that a loss in late January against Oakland Mills that temporarily put the county title run in jeopardy, may have been a blessing in disguise.
"Oakland Mills earned that one, but for them to get us it actually may have been a good thing in the long run," Hollwedel said. "I think we learned a lot about being a better team together from that game. Our unselfishness, and the kids sacrificing some individual success for the integrity of the team down the stretch, has really been tremendous. It's a testament to them and what their goals have been all season."
The Eagles now turn their attention to the playoffs, where they will be the top seed in Section I of the 3A East region.
Centennial 60, Marriotts Ridge 29
C (18-1, 20-2): I. White 24, Strothers 14, Brown 11, Merkey 4, E. White 3, Fowler 3, An 1.