Every coach talks about peaking come playoffs. Centennial boys basketball is actually doing it.
On the road against Marriotts Ridge in the 3A East Region I semifinals on Tuesday evening, the Eagles put together one of their best all-around performances of the season on the way to a convincing 79-57 win.
“You are always trying to figure out that formula, how to avoid peaking too early or too late. It feels, though, like everything might just be coming together exactly when we need it to,” Centennial coach Chris Sanders said. “We’ve spent a lot of time on the defensive side of the ball for the last few weeks and I think that’s what is pushing us over the top. … We’re playing with urgency on that end and it’s carrying over to the offense.
“This is as good as we’ve looked.”
Centennial junior Bryson Baker talks about the Eagles' 79-57 win over Marriotts Ridge in the 3A East Region I semifinals on Tuesday, March 3.
Bryson Baker scored a game-high 25 points to lead an offensive outburst that marked the team’s second-highest point total of the year and Centennial (19-5) has now won each of its last four games — dating back to the end of the regular season — by 19 or more points.
While Baker did the heavy lifting, finishing just two points shy of his career high, the Eagles got scoring from a number of different sources. Three other players — Joey Sedlacko (15 points), Jeong Hwang (13) and Shane Taylor (12) — finished in double figures offensively and Brandon Bonner was right behind them with nine points.
“We are pretty balanced and we’ve had four or give guys who have scored 20 points in a game this year, so we feel like that allows us to pick our matchups,” Sanders said. “But every once in awhile we will have a game like tonight, where one or two players get going and then everyone else seems to feed off of that. As a coach who likes offensive basketball, it was exciting to watch.”
Marriotts Ridge (16-7), which was led on the evening by John Miller’s 22 points, had its moments of offensive efficiency as well. The Mustangs weathered an early Centennial surge and put together a 16-5 run to close the first quarter for a 22-17 lead.
The Marriotts Ridge lead was still four points, 25-21, with five minutes to go in the opening half. But Centennial increased its defensive pressure for an extended run of its own, turning the deficit into a 40-32 advantage at the break. Everything came courtesy of layups or foul shots, with Baker making three shots of his own at the rim in the final three minutes of the first half.
“We knew that we would have to attack the rack to create for our teammates and to also get some of our own shots … and it worked,” Baker said. “We didn’t have a lot of outside shots in the first half and we still scored 40 points.”
Centennial never slowed down from there, opening the third quarter on a 19-4 run that created a 23-point lead and effectively put the game out of reach.
“They ramped up their intensity pretty well and it started with them turning up their man-to-man defense. There were a few unfortunate plays that just didn’t go our way and all of a sudden you look up and you are down double digits,” Marriotts Ridge coach Tim Brady said. “I think the little things added up tonight and all the credit to Centennial for their effort. During the middle of the game tonight, their intensity out-matched ours.”
Marriotts Ridge made several little runs in the fourth quarter to get as close as 16, however the damage had been done. Centennial kept its foot on the accelerator, eventually securing the final 22-point winning margin.
Kaden Bryan (12 points) and Austin Avent (10) ended up joining Miller in double figures scoring for the Mustangs.
Centennial now turns its attention to a match-up with a Wilde Lake team it beat twice during the regular season. The most recent victory in early February came by just two points, though, 69-67.
On the other side, Marriotts Ridge heads into the offseason with hope for the future. The team’s top four scorers this winter were all underclassmen and the final 16-win total marks the most for the program since the 2011-12 season.
“I can’t tell them enough how proud I am of what we did this season, achieving one of the best records Marriotts Ridge has ever had,” Brady said. “We are losing a few seniors that did a lot for this program, but overall we are bringing back a lot of our key pieces. I told them just now, I want them to remember this game and this feeling. When they are shooting in the driveway, remember this and use it as a catalyst to get ready to hit the ground running next year.”
Centennial 79, Marriotts Ridge 57
C (19-5): Baker 25, Sedlacko 15, Hwang 13, Taylor 12, Bonner 9, Schickner 3, Woerner 2.
Arundel 79, Howard 72 2OT (4A East Region I Semifinals)
The Wildcats survived a double-overtime thriller on the road, getting double-digit scoring performances from five different players. Robert Keith led Arundel with 19 points, Tyson Brooks had 15 points and 11 rebounds, Quaddir Spence added 14 points, Thomas Loughry had 12 and Isaiah Nelson chipped in with 10.
Keith hit two threes in the second overtime to help seal the victory.
Howard had some standout performances of its own in the loss, with Kyle Colbert (24 points), Cooper Haberern (24) and Darrion Harris (21) marking the first time this winter a Howard County team has had three players eclipse 20 points. For Colbert, the effort was a career high.
Harris made two free throws to tie the game at 62 to force overtime and then hit a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of the first OT to extend the game.
A: Keith 19, Brooks 15, Spence 14, Loughry 12, Nelson 10, Scott 5, Omotosho 4.
Ho (12-11): Colbert 24, Haberern 24, Harris 21, Simmons 3.
Half: 34-34; Regulation: 62-62.
Liberty 59, Glenelg 54 (2A West Region I Semifinal)
A 19-point fourth quarter lifted Liberty past Glenelg Tuesday in Eldersburg, pushing the Lions into the regional title game Thursday, March 5 against rival Century.
The Lions (13-10) trailed by five points after the third quarter but rallied for the win, led by Justin Sheetz’s 17 points. Sheetz was 12-for-12 from the free-throw line in the victory, and 8-for-8 in the fourth.
Shane Stewart added 10 points and Jayden Adams scored eight. Max Pearcy led the Gladiators with 14 points, while Robbie Tolbert (11) and Nathan Curtis (10) also scored in double figures.