Trojans capture first-ever region crown
WORTON — After earning another chance at taking down Pocomoke, the Trojans didn’t disappoint their home crowd Saturday afternoon in the Class 1A East Region championship game.
With tenacious execution, Kent County High won its first boys’ basketball region title in school history with a 77-69 victory over the Warriors at Trojans Arena.
Without Player of the Year Manny Camper and with masterful senior point guard Marcquan Greene limited by foul trouble in the first three quarters, the Trojans produced a fourth-quarter rally against the defending region champs.
Kent County advances to play Friday at 3 p.m. at the Xfinity Center in College Park against Fairmont Heights in the state semifinals. The winner plays Saturday at 1 p.m.
Senior guard She’mar Turner finished with a game-high 24 points to lead the Trojans, including 13 points in the fourth quarter, including his team’s final seven.
“At the end, we pressured their young guards and made them turn the ball over, and we executed off of that,” Turner said.
With Kent up 73-69, Turner gained some distance from his defender, collected an inbounds bounce pass from Ricky Bowser near mid-court, drove to the hoop, and scored with 45 seconds to play.
“I said I got to go get it,” Turner said. “If I didn’t go get that we might have lost the game.”
A desperation 3-pointer by Pocomoke’s Tyrone Matthews missed its mark and Turner added a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
The Warriors took their first lead with 3 minutes, 10 seconds left in the third quarter, and led 65-58 with 5:25 left in the fourth; Kent County outscored them 19-4 the rest of the way.
Bowser, who finished with 15 points, teamed with Wayne Whye, Tyrell Henry and Arlington Johnson inside the paint to limit the effectiveness of Pocomoke’s taller players Branden Townsend and Kwamaine Atkins. But it was the Trojans’ ability to defend against the outside shooting of Tyrone Matthews that may have made the difference. Mathews’ only two threepointers came in the first quarter, and he was held to 15 points. Townsend led the Warriors with 21 points and Atkins scored 20.
The Trojans (20-4) opened the game with a crowdpleasing 6-0 run that blossomed to a 24-10 lead with 1:25 left in the first quarter. Takai Caulk (13 points) hit three 3-pointers in the early going, including two straight from the left baseline, to put Kent County up by 14 with 1:05 left in the quarter.
Greene picked up his second foul with 16 seconds to go in the first quarter.
“Marcquan couldn’t stay out of foul trouble,” Trojans head coach Sobaye Scott said. “That’s one thing being guard-oriented. I told the guys when Marcquan got the fouls, ‘Look, we just got to play smart, we got to spread the floor’. We still got the guards out on the floor that’s a little inexperienced, but with him not being out on the floor and a leader, I told the rest of ‘em, ‘It’s a collaboration thing that you’ve got to do. We still got to cut, we still got to spread ‘em. We still got to be aggressive on the boards,’ even though they were taller than us.”
Kent County led 24-16 at the end of the first quarter and 45-37 at the half.
Pocomoke opened the second half with a 6-0 run: Delonte Mills crossed the lane and scored with a floater; Townsend hit a short jumper; and Tyree Thornton stole the ball and netted a layup. The Warriors took a 5554 lead with 1:13 left in the third quarter on a free throw by Atkins, and they led 57-56 heading into the fourth.
Two baskets by Atkins and one each by Thornton and Matthews gave the Warriors a 65-58 lead before Kent County rallied.
“At one point, they made a strong push because they were using a high-low with their bigs,” Scott said. “We didn’t have our hands up on defense. With our hands up on defense, we was deflecting a lot of passes. One thing I can credit to my boys is with being undersized they’re really athletic and they can jump. So a lot of teams give us the eye-ball test and say, ‘Oh well, we’re taller than ‘em, we outplay ‘em,’ but that’s when I tell ‘em, ‘The mental got to come in and effect your physical. First of all, you’ve got to get into good position to box out. Second, you’ve got to use your physical ability to jump, to grab the rebound, but when you grab it, you’ve got to grab it and snatch it.’”
Whye hit a turnaround one-hander and Turner drained a pull-up jumper to cut Pocomoke’s lead to 65-62 with 4:45 remaining. Greene snared a defensive rebound, raced upcourt, and canned a jumper: 65-64. A Thornton putback gave the Warriors a 67-64 lead, but Turner then collected a feed from Bowser on a baseline cut and scored to make it 6766 with 2:45 left.
Defense by Whye created a missed shot by Townsend on the next possession and Turner followed with a baseline jumper for a 68-67 Kent lead with 2:14 remaining. Atkins then found the net after grabbing a loose ball inside the lane, but that ended the Warriors’ scoring.
A bucket by Greene put Kent up, 70-69, and Turner took over from there.
The Warriors (12-12) were whistled for two flagrant fouls in the final minutes, but the Trojans missed all four foul shots.
Scott said Caulk missed practice on Friday because he was fighting off pneumonia, which hampered the Trojans’ press break early.
Camper, last season’s North Bayside Player of the Year, watched the action from the bench after being hurt in the Bayside Conference championship game against Stephen Decatur.
The Trojans fell 80-62 to Pocomoke in last year’s region title game.
What was the difference this year?
“Defense, diving after loose balls, boxing out, listening to our coach, and just