Stephen Decatur Boys Basketball Back in MPSSAA State Semifinals

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With the MPSSAA basketball state playoff semifinals scheduled to start tomorrow, there's plenty of teams that will find playing on such a large stage unfamiliar. Stephen Decatur's boys basketball team is not one of those groups.

The Seahawks reached this stage of the 3A playoffs last year and were successful, topping Seneca Valley 66-61 in front of an electric crowd at the Xfinity Center at University of Maryland. The team couldn't emulate its success in the championship though, falling to C. Milton Wright 51-49 in overtime.

Fast forward to a year later and Stephen Decatur, with its 25-1 overall mark, will square off with Baltimore Polytechnic Institute tomorrow at 3 PM in as highly anticipated a game in the semifinal round as there is for both boys and girls.

"The fact that we came up a little bit short, the players that were part of last year's team pushed this year's newcomers to work hard in practice so we could have that experience again," head coach BJ Johnson said. "Keve Aluma, Kevon Voyles and Matt Kristick were great leaders in practice. Those players constantly reminded the players what it felt like to get to the final four."

In Aluma and Voyles, the Seahawks possess true go to players who they'll rely on to lead the way against Poly.

Aluma, a senior forward, leads the team in both points and rebounds. He is averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds a game, while Voyles, a junior guard, has the most steals for Stephen Decatur. Voyles is also second in assists in scoring.

Gary Bridwell has split time with Voyles at the point guard position. The senior who transferred to Stephen Decatur this year from Parkside, leads the team in assists and is second in steals, rebounds and blocked shots.

The trio has done an excellent job of dictating the uptempo style the Seahawks like to employ.

"Defense is definitely our strength," Johnson said. "We like to press to cause other teams to speed up."

The Seahawks will hope to dictate the pace they want against a difficult opponent in Poly, which reached the Baltimore City Division I title game.

Johnson has seen Poly play and views the Engineers as a well-coached bunch with a lot of talented, particularly in the forms of De'Vondre Perry and Demetrius Mims. It should be an excellent contest that would be worthy of a state title game.

If Stephen Decatur finds a way past Poly, the Seahawks will square off with either Seneca Valley or Potomac for the 3A championship. It's a difficult road for sure, but one that if Stephen Decatur completes would be a dream ending to a superb season.

"It would be great for our kids, the school and the community," Johnson said. "I think the kids have worked really hard in the offseason, and I'm hoping we can bring it home."
March 8th, 2017By: Wick Eisenberg

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