Severn's boys basketball team couldn't have given exiting Admirals coach Jim Doyle a better going-away present.
For Doyle, who is resigning after eight years at the helm for the Admirals, yesterday's 60-48 win over Friends at Goucher College was more than a final victory in a tenure that produced a 97-67 record. This one was for the Armstrong Conference B Division Championship, which Severn never had won.
"We really wanted Coach Doyle to go out on a winning note," senior guard Jamand Mack said. "It was important for us to win it for Coach Doyle, and I really think that helped inspire us. We wanted to be the first team to put a banner on the gymnasium wall."
There were doubts whether the Admirals could handle the pressure that goes with being the team to beat, but their talent, skill and relentless defense eventually took its toll on a Quakers team in less than peak form.
Severn (24-2) traded the lead with Friends six times in the first quarter before taking a 17-13 lead.
A Mack jumper gave the Admirals their biggest lead of the half, 22-13, but the margin disappeared after two consecutive three-pointers from Quakers junior point guard Sean Armstrong (11 points).
Armstrong's threes sent Severn into a momentary shooting frenzy, but the Admirals recovered to salvage a 26-25 halftime lead.
"I think we played like we were feeling the pressure of a team that was supposed to win," said Doyle, who has led the Ad
mirals to a 45-10 record the past two seasons. "We missed some shots we normally make and tried to create a lot on our own.
"But we've been stressing defense all year, and that's why even when our offense goes away our defense keeps us in the game."
With senior Chris Pitkin controlling the offensive boards, Severn managed to retain a slight advantage despite poor shooting from the perimeter.
Senior Spencer Deering staged a successful personal comeback midway through the third as he pulled the Quakers to 36-35 with 3:03 remaining. Severn's defense, however, turned it up a notch and forced more turnovers. The fourth of Mack's six steals resulted in an easy layup for junior James Carpenter and gave the Admirals a 47-39 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"We had to not turn the ball over against this team, and we didn't do that," Friends coach Randy Cooper said. "We basically told our kids not to dribble because if you dribble they jump you and they steal the ball, and that's part of their offense. They're so athletic and so quick with their feet that they just force you out of any kind of offense."
Severn sophomore John Vereen, who led all scorers with 19, was credited with seven steals.
"We were a little more determined and focused this year," said senior Brad Fowler, alluding to last season when his team went 12-0 in the conference before losing the tournament title to St. Paul's. "We weren't taking anyone for granted once we got into the tournament."
Pitkin said: "We knew we had to get refocused after losing to Spalding [in the Association of Independent Schools Tournament] because after that loss teams were saying, 'They can be beaten.' We had to go out and prove that we were still No. 1."