The St. Georges Tech boys basketball team plays Sanford Thursday, March 7 at the University of Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center. UPDATE: Tickets are sold out for the game.
The 2019 DIAA Boys Basketball State Tournament began with 24 teams, and after three rounds, four of the top five seeds remain, including No. 1 Sanford, No. 2 Dover, No. 3 Caravel Academy and the No. 5 St. Georges Tech Hawks.
Tonight, the Hawks will make their third tournament trip to the Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware since 2014, taking on No. 1 seed Sanford, with a spot in the state title game on the line.
After a second round victory over A.I. duPont, St. Georges Tech advanced to the semifinals with a 58-41 win over Caesar Rodney in the quarterfinals Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Warriors find themselves back in the semifinals for the second straight season after a second-round win over Appoquinimink and a 59-40 triumph over Salesianum in the quarterfinals.
While this will be first time the Hawks and Warriors will meet in the postseason since the 2016 championship game, the two squads have already met on the court this season. Back on Dec. 6, the Warriors edged St. Georges Tech, 63-56, in an overtime thriller.
“We played 30 minutes of winning basketball against Sanford, but it takes 32 minutes to seal the deal,” said St. Georges Tech head coach Rod Griffin. “Costly turnovers and poor decisions hurt us in closing out that game. We learned from that game the importance of taking care of the basketball, protecting the lead and managing the end of the game. They’ve gotten better since early December and so have we.”
Sanford head coach Stan Waterman agreed that both teams are very different heading into Thursday’s semifinal matchup.
“We matched up with St. Georges very early in the season. Coming into the season I felt they would be one of the top teams in the state this year, led by a dynamic scorer and a very good head coach,” Waterman said. “I think that they have shown over the course of the season that they are a pretty solid team and Hyland’s supporting cast has stepped up.”
Sanford is the No. 1 seed for a reason, going a perfect 16-0 against in-state teams in the regular season with four losses to out-of-state teams.
“We’ve been playing well over the last couple weeks of the season and we have improved tremendously over the year,” Waterman said. “We have several guys that are capable of getting hot and carrying the load, but we’ve done a great job of sharing the load. We’ve had really good balance and I hope to see that continue as it’s difficult for our opponents to decide how they want to play us.”
The Warriors have a well-rounded lineup and dominated the paint in the win over No. 8 Salesianum in the quarterfinals, led by junior forward Jyare Davis’ 34 points. Along with Davis, Sanford boasts a group that can feature a different standout nightly, including the likes of Nnanna Njoku, Carter Ruby, Ryan McKeon and Corey Perkins.
Griffin said the Warriors' height can be intimidating for some teams.
“Most local high school basketball teams don’t have the height of this Sanford team,” Griffin said. “They start two 6’7” players and the other starter is 6’9”. One of their subs coming off the bench is 6’9”."
However, the Hawks should have an answer.
"We have some players with good size who can match up and bang with them on the low post," said Griffin. "Our defense has been terrific during this state tournament run. We’ll continue to play hard on both the defensive and offensive ends of the court.”
The Hawks (17-6) have leaned heavily on standout Nah’Shon Hyland, who led the way against CR with 22 points in the quarterfinals, after scoring 26 against A.I. du Pont in the second round. However, like the Warriors, the Hawks have a lot of contributors who have led them to this point. Michael McCants, Le’Mar Wright, Tyrese Owens, Kevin Paden, Ahmad Taylor and the rest of the Hawks will be looking to match up well with the Warriors.
“Bones (Hyland) is ready to compete in every game and has helped lead us to a lot of success this season,” Griffin said. “He’ll be ready and the rest of our team will be ready to compete Thursday night at the Bob. He faces the toughest defender, double and triple teaming from every opponent, and still finds a way to be productive.”
Sanford's coach also praised the Hawks' standout player.
“Hyland is a prolific scorer and we have had some success in the past with slowing him down,” Waterman said. “He’s very capable of taking over a game and we just don’t want to let that happen. You can’t give all or your attention to him as his teammates are also very capable.”
Despite having to deal with the top seed in the tournament, the Hawks believe they’re ready for the challenge.
“We talk all the time with the players about every game we play is like a championship game,” Griffin said. “Our final four matchup will be another game on this journey.”
Hawks soar over CR
In the quarterfinals of the state tournament Saturday at Dover High, St. Georges Tech defeated No. 4 Caesar Rodney 58-41.
Griffin said the key to the win was defense.
“Before the game, I told them trophy cases are built on defense,” Griffin said. “I thought we played phenomenal defense tonight. We had good contributions from a lot of guys, and Bones (Nah’Shon Hyland) did a spectacular job of controlling the pace.”
Hyland scored 22 points to lead the Hawks. Tyrese Owens poured in 10. Michael McCants scored nine. Ahmad Taylor netted six. Kevin Paden scored five. Le’Mar Wright netted four, and Joseph Rinarelli added two.
St. Georges Tech jumped out to an 18-10 first-quarter lead and extended the margin to 33-20 at halftime.
Caesar Rodney cut the lead to six, 38-32, with just over three minutes to play in the third quarter, but the Hawks ended the quarter on a 6-0 run for a 44-32 advantage.
In the fourth quarter, St. Georges Tech opened a 15-point lead with 4:46 to play when Hyland drove to the hoop for a basket and was fouled, and then sank his free throw.
The Riders responded with a basket and then a three-pointer to make the score 49-39 with 3:20 left to play, but that was as close as it would get.
Wright hit a free throw for the Hawks and then Hyland sank two more foul shots for a 52-39 cushion with 2:24 to play.
Semifinals and finals: times and tickets
St. Georges Tech plays Sanford in the state tournament semifinals tonight, Thursday, March 7, at 8 p.m., at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center, 631 S. College Ave., Newark.
The other semifinal game between No. 2 Dover and No. 3 Caravel is scheduled for tonight at 6:30 p.m., also at the Carpenter Center.
UPDATE: Tickets are sold out for the semifinal games, according to the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association as of March 6 at 11:34 p.m.
The winners of the semifinal will play in the state championship Saturday, March 9 at the Carpenter Center at 1 p.m.
Tickets for the finals are $8 each, available online at https://statechamps.com/clients/diaa/ and while supplies last the day of the game at the Carpenter Center box office.
The box office opens for the finals March 9 at 11 a.m.