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High School sports

South River boys basketball seniors look to fill championship promise, end postseason title drought

The dream of a better South River boys basketball team began when Cash Herndon joined Blake Burrows in his basement to play video games in second grade.

Flash forward a few years and the two crammed into the middle school section of the South River High gym with a few other friends to witness their future.

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When they first suited up as freshmen, the best friends scanned the gym wall for “boys basketball” on the regional championship banners, spanning more than a dozen sports over half a century. There it was, tucked in the furthest corner, second from the top: 1983. And according to The Capital’s archives, that was only a regular-season championship, one that the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association does not recognize in their record book; South River was upset in the regional tournament semifinals.

But that was the last and only time boys basketball won any championship. No postseason. No state. No Anne Arundel County. They decided then they’d change that.

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Now, Herndon, Burrows and their fellow seniors have one more chance.

South River's Cash Herndon gestures after making a 3-pointer during the first half of a game against Broadneck on Dec. 16. Herndon and his fellow seniors made a promise to their coach as freshmen that they could win championships for the program. Now as seniors, they have one final chance to make it happen.

“They came in as freshmen and said, ‘Coach, we can win championships,’” coach Darren Hall said. “I said, ‘We can make a run at it. But to do that, we have to compete at the highest level.’”

The Seahawks were county favorites this season and, save for the most recent week, have met those standards. They’re 10-4 overall and on Saturday, they took Meade, county front-runners and a Class 4A state semifinalist a year ago to an 84-80, double-overtime finish in the Capitol Hoops Challenge at DeMatha Catholic.

“It almost feels like we’ve been writing a story,” Herndon said. “Like every night, we’ve been writing a new paragraph of the last chapter.”

The current crew came close to reaching their goal last winter — within five points, in fact — as North Point held off South River, 66-61, in the Class 4A East Region II final.

“Five points” galvanized into a rallying cry for the Seahawks. That’s all that separated them from a dream. They treat it like a drill: Do something extra every day to win five points back.

“Getting those five things together will help us later in the playoffs,” Burrows said. “Right now, we’re trying to see, we just came off a loss, but how do we get better as a whole? We know what that goal is; how are going to get there?”

South River pulled off magic when it upset four-time state champion Eleanor Roosevelt on Dec. 22. A few days later, the Seahawks traveled to Tennessee and played well in a loss to Great Crossing, currently the No. 4 team in Kentucky as voted by the state’s media.

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“We were on a high,” Burrows said.

But few teams ride that wave forever.

South River's Trashaun Timmons shoots the ball against Broadneck's Amare Jefferies during the second half of a game on Dec. 16.

It’s funny, Herndon said, how certain themes always come up again in life. Glen Burnie beat South River, 83-78, on Jan. 17 — a five-point margin. The lacked energy. Missed free throws plagued them. So, the Seahawks returned to practice the next day with the most joyful energy they could muster. Every one of their drills went well.

“We may have gotten too comfortable,” said Herndon, who averages 23 points per game. “We got our name out a little, family and friends I haven’t seen in years coming to watch us play. But we got reminded that five is still there.”

South River lost its next two games to Southern-AA and Meade as it continued to battle injuries. Forwards Jeremy Berger had been in and out of the starting lineup and James Crimaudo just returned to the lineup Saturday.

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South River is expecting to be back at full power for the playoffs. But in the meantime, veterans Trashaun Timmons (13.7 ppg), Burrows and Herndon have bore more weight than they expected to, while others were treated to the pressures of starting earlier than they’d anticipated. Hall has been impressed with how Miles Evans and Devin Harper have embraced that role.

“Even with [the regular starters] out, I feel like we’ve been playing together for so long that we realize the role has now grown,” Burrows said. “It’s not about being good anymore. It’s about being great.”

Burrows took it all as a chance to self-improve. He shouldered the rebounding burden without Crimaudo and Berger.

He averaged 12 points last year and hovered around that mark early this winter. Now, he’s hitting his stride. Though averaging close to 18 points per game, he’s been playing his best basketball lately. He put up 33 points in the loss to Glen Burnie. He drained six 3-pointers against Severna Park — in the first quarter.

“Shooting the 3 is what coach wants me to do, trusted me to do,” Burrows said. “And I feel like they’re there. If I miss it, I go get the next one, go get a bucket. I feel like I’m getting into the flow.”

South River's Blake Burrows shoots a 3-pointer during the first half of a game against Broadneck on Dec. 16. Burrows is averaging around 18 points a game with a high of 33 against Glen Burnie.

Herndon feels like they’re lucky, in a sense, that his squad is mature enough to handle the adversity injuries have saddled them with, with the underclassmen realizing what’s at stake.

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“The juniors could quit at any moment, knowing they have next year, but they don’t,” Herndon said. “They treat this year like their senior year. We couldn’t be more thankful.”

Last year’s team earned a reputation for relying on the 3-point shot. All a team had to do was shut down the perimeter and it shut South River down. This year’s team, while still prolific from deep, has diversified its play.

The Seahawks draw up plays to attack the rim. They emphasize selective shots. When opponents can’t pressure them solely on the 3-point line, it opens up uncontested jumpers.

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“Teams are seeing a problem with us,” Herndon said. “If teams play zone, [Blake] knocks down six threes. Then they go man, and you got people like Trashaun — and he’s like an animal — he just gets physically to the rim and does whatever he pleases.”

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In the end, the Seahawks’ dream isn’t just about printing a new date onto a banner. It’s about the power that new banner could hold.

Before high school begins each morning, the boys watch their neighbors disappear and reappear in St. Mary’s or Archbishop Spalding gear.

That’s the change Burrows, Herndon and their teammates really want to instill, to keep their neighbors in Edgewater.

“These middle schoolers, sixth and seventh grade, we want them to come to our gym and be like, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to have these people watching me,’” Herndon said.

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