Broadneck will play for the state championship.
That’s the news after the Bruins boys basketball team delivered yet another resounding victory on Thursday night, this time jumping out front and never relenting in a 72-57 win over Richard Montgomery High School in the 4A state semifinals at Xfinity Center on the University of Maryland campus.
Logan Vican led all scorers with 19 points, 13 in the second half, while Jamar Young scored 18 and Che Colbert scored 16 to lead the Bruins into the state final for the first time in program history.
“I was blown away,” said Broadneck coach John Williams of watching his Bruins chalk up their 22nd win of the season. “This group—I’m along for the ride at this point. The senior leadership, the perseverance. I’m amazed at how we’ve progressed throughout the season, and we’re peaking at the right time.”
Fresh off a home demolition of Meade in last Friday’s 4A East final that will live on famously as an all-time Broadneck memory, the Bruins showed no letdown against the Rockets, the West champions who entered the game at 24-1 on the season.
In the opening minutes, Mike Cantrell drove the lane and flipped a nifty shovel pass to Vican for a layup, and Young stole an outlet pass and without hesitation launched a 3-pointer that splashed through the net for a 10-4 lead.
Young doubled up on his long-distance assault with another 3-pointer moments later, then, when Broadneck had a baseline out-of-bounds possession with one second remaining, Young tipped in Cantrell’s pass at the buzzer for a 17-11 Bruin lead after one quarter.
“I like to start the game off with a lot of energy, because the team builds off my energy, and the crowd,” said Young. “So if I start off kinda strong and fast-paced, the team will follow behind my lead and get us going.”
They kept going. Broadneck (22-5) never trailed and likewise showed no nerves or shyness to the moment. While the bright lights, full-sized court and cavernous shooting background of Xfinity Center can be disorienting and nerve-wracking for some, particularly teams playing in the state tournament for the first time, the Bruins seamlessly transitioned to the stage and kept playing the basketball that has gotten them this far—Williams commended his team’s collective ability to stay cool.
“[Che’s] resting heart rate—ice water in his veins,” said Williams. “Jamar is a competitive guy. Logan is a tactician. We came to play tonight.”
In the second quarter, Andrew Rose checked into the game and hit a 3-pointer, and Cantrell came up with an athletic block on the defensive end, which he turned into a dish to Colbert for a fast-break layup and a 30-19 Broadneck lead.
Cantrell made 5 assists in the first half and had 6 for the game, along with 9 rebounds, 7 points and 3 steals.
“It’s amazing because you can rely on cutting and always having the ball where you want it,” said Vican of Cantrell’s passing. “You know it’s not going to be over your head or too low. It’s always right there and it gives you a great opportunity to score.”
The Bruins kept the momentum going in the second half and seemed to have an answer for every Richard Montgomery rally. Whenever the Rockets made a push—twice they clawed to within 11 points and threatened to cut the lead down to single digits—the Bruins were there with an answer. They got valuable minutes from Nick Gatton and reserves Rose, Brendan Davis, Josh Ehrlich, and David Stewart in keeping Richard Montgomery at arm’s length. Gatton had 3 blocks, while Davis had 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
“We’re a very deep basketball team, and those guys are ready,” said Williams of his one-through-nine rotation. “We’ve been using those guys all year long no matter the situation. Whether it be BD, Brendan Davis, offensively managing our stall, breaking press, he’s really kinda the engine. He’s a scrappy son-of-a-gun. He played outstanding. Josh being a freshman, he’s been through experiences on the football field, he’s been through some experiences with us this winter, and we know he’s going to be ready to play. Andrew was a starter for us last year, and he’s logged a lot of minutes, so we know what we’re going to get with him as well.”
The Bruins methodically put the game away, vaulting the program into its first state final. Broadneck made it as far as the state tournament by winning the region in 1986 and 1995, but they’ll be taking a shot at the crown for the first time this year.
“Since Broadneck, we haven’t been in this type of environment, Broadneck is really trying to help us, in school they cheer us on and stuff like that,” said Colbert.
Vican and Young agreed.
“It’s amazing having all our friends and family and teachers from the school watching us, and at this point we’re just going out there every game and having fun and just playing for the school,” said Vican.
“To me personally it’s a very good ride with this group and team,” said Young. “Since the first day of tryouts, we kind of knew what team we had. We have a lot of energy, we move the ball, nobody’s selfish on the team. Go off of ring-chasing, everybody’s hungry, and we want to bring one to the school.”
The Bruins will have their work cut out for them on Saturday night at 8 p.m. when they return to Xfinity to square off with Eleanor Roosevelt. The Raiders made three free throws in the closing seconds to escape with a 63-61 win over Dulaney in the other semifinal, and the final will pit Broadneck’s defensive mentality and savvy offensive play against a deep, athletic and big Eleanor Roosevelt team.
“We have not played a team to the caliber of Eleanor Roosevelt,” said Williams. “Nothing that compares to the amount of depth they have and the amount of athletic depth. Each and every kid, and it looked like they were 10-deep. Some of the stuff we got away with tonight we won’t be able to get away with against them, especially towards the end, handling pressures and lob passes, so we really need to tighten it up. How do we prepare? As we have all year long. Making sure these guys get proper rest, nutrition, we’re going to watch some film and try to break that down. We hang our hat on the defensive end. We’re going to try to make it a defensive battle. Limit them to one shot and hold court on the defensive end.”
But, he added, anything can happen in a one-game playoff with his Bruins on the floor.
“These guys are a group of gamers,” Williams said. “We’re just looking forward to the next challenge.”
In the Bonus
Williams said the support of the school community has been tremendous.
“Our community has really pulled together and supported us in a way that I never could have expected,” said Williams. “I had 75 text messages Friday night after we beat Meade. The amount of faces and alumni that I saw in the crowd supporting us Friday and into this evening, it’s been quite a ride for us. For me personally, a lifelong Broadneck fan, and then as a student athlete who went to three regional championships and lost all three, to have these guys put me on their back here, it’s been a dream come true for us, and for me especially. We’re really looking forward to Saturday.”
Williams played at Broadneck, graduating in 1991 after having played in three region finals as a student-athlete—his Bruin teams lost all three, so Friday’s win over Meade and the experience of playing in the state tournament and now making the final are special to him personally.
“That kind of stuff sticks with you,” said Williams. “You move forward and accept it, but it sticks with you. To be able to cut down those nets on Friday night against Meade was something I’ve dreamt about probably since I was watching Broadneck basketball at 8-, 9-, 10-years-old. So it’s been a lot of fun, and I’m juts proud of our guys. We talk about coming together, overcoming hurdles. We had a two-game losing streak, didn’t know how we were going to bounce back. We bounced back in a fashion that was pretty enlightening to me. It really let me know what these guys were all about, their perseverence, their sticktoitiveness, their ability to put up with me. I’m not always easy at practices. I think I’ve learned this group—this is my second tenure. I did 10 years, left for four years to help raise my family, came back, and I think I’ve become a little bit more wise to be able to listen to my players and understand what they need, and give them the freedom to do what they do.”
In the postgame press conference at Xfinity Center, the Capital’s Bob Hough asked if March 14 held any significance for Williams, knowing it was Williams’ birthday.
“Yes, today is my birthday," said Williams, smiling and adding that the victory was not the only thing he was getting. “Two things I’ve really wanted for my birthday have been, one, to have this opportunity, and two, to go to Medieval Times. My kids got me tickets to Medieval Times, and I’m looking forward to that—but not quite as much as Saturday.”