After losing by two points to McDonogh in last Saturday's MSA B Conference title game, the 13th-ranked Severn Admirals had only one thing on their mind.
Last night, in the finals of the MSA Independent Schools Tournament at Gilman, that's just what the Admirals got.
Tournament MVP Alhamisi Simms scored a game-high 21 points, and teammate John Vereen held Eagles standout Donta Evans to a tournament-low 10 as Severn beat 12th-ranked McDonogh, 54-49.
"We proved who was the true No. 1 team in the B Conference," said Simms, whose team has now defeated McDonogh (15-5) two out of three times this season. "We beat them twice. Case closed. Severn in No. 1."
In the consolation, third-seeded Gilman defeated fourth-seeded John Carroll, 58-50.
For Severn (23-3) the name of the game was defense, as the Admirals shut down McDonogh's high-powered offense.
Much of the credit belonged to Vereen, who shadowed Evans all over the floor, rarely allowing the 5-foot-10 guard to take an uncontested shot. Evans scored 26 in Severn's semifinal win against Gilman.
"You've just got to stay with him step by step," said Vereen. "Donta's a great player, but I think we played the best defense as a team that we've played all year."
"They played great defense on us," said McDonogh coach Albie Swartz. "We didn't shoot well and they made the big baskets when they had to. I think if we played again, it would probably be like this."
Another big factor was McDonogh's foul trouble. Six-foot-6 center Bobby Sabelhaus, who had given teams fits in the paint throughout the tournament, picked up his fourth foul with 1 minute, 3 seconds left in the third quarter, and scored just two point in the fourth quarter.
Still, the game was tied, 49-49, after Evans' 15-footer with 42 seconds left. Severn's Jay Lonnie Booth then gave his team the lead with a 15-footer to make it 51-49.
Then, on what was the pivotal play of the final minutes, Vereen blocked Evans' attempt at a three-point basket with 10 seconds left, and Evans foul in a scramble to win back possession.
Vereen hit one of two foul shots to give Severn a three-point lead. McDonogh still had one last shot to tie, but Evans' three-pointer bounced out with 1 second left.
"Our No. 1 goal this year was to win the Independent Schools Tournament," said Severn coach Wayne Fowler. "It's big, it really is, for the simple reason that Severn has been building its program over the last few years and this was the only thing we hadn't won."
"This makes us the No. 1 Independent school in the state."
The game was close throughout. McDonogh broke out to a 5-0 lead on a layup by Evans and three-pointer by Tom Layden. Severn, however, was quick to answer, scoring the next five to tie the game and pulling even at 10-10 on Simms' buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the quarter.
The teams traded baskets for much of the second quarter, with (( McDonogh leading by as much as four and Severn by as much as three. The Admirals led, 25-24, at the break after the Eagles' Layden stole a pass and drove the length of the floor for a layup.