After allowing more than 70 points in a loss at St. Mary’s on Monday, No. 19 Severn traveled to Brooklandville, Tuesday evening, looking to improve defensively and the Admirals did just that.

In a showdown between a pair of MIAA B Conference basketball powers, Severn held No. 20 St. Paul’s to just three points over the game’s first 11 minutes and 50 seconds, building a commanding 26-3 lead on its way to an impressive 65-44 win.

St. Paul’s got a three-point field goal from senior Michael Ward in the game’s opening minutes to shave an early Severn lead to 4-3. The Admirals, however, scored the final 13 points of the opening quarter and the first nine of the second quarter to put the Crusaders in a hole from which they could not recover.

Applying scrappy three-quarter court pressure and a tough collapsing zone, the Admirals were able to repeatedly force the Crusaders into turnovers and difficult shot opportunities. Sophomore Mo Terry scored seven of his 12 points in the opening quarter to fuel Severn’s quick start and junior star LJ Owens netted a game-high 22 points, all over the final three-quarters.

“The last couple of games, we have been giving up in the seventies in points and the coaches told us to come out here and try to keep them under 50, so we did that,” said Owens. “We came off a rough loss the other night and we just wanted to get one. We all played together and we got it done.”

Down 48-25 in the fourth quarter, St. Paul’s wrapped three-pointers by Ward and sophomore Ziggy Reid around an old-fashioned three-point play by junior Trayon Wright to stage a 9-0 spurt which pulled the Crusaders within 14, but they would get no closer.

The Admirals closed things out on a 15-6 run which included a spectacular put-back dunk by Owens and a one-handed breakaway jam by junior Jermaine Hall. They also drained 9-of-12 fourth-quarter free throws, including 5-of-6 from sophomore point guard AJ Burch, who scored 12 points in the contest.

“We know they want to push the ball and we wanted to slow that down,” said Severn coach VJ Keith of his team’s defensive strategy. “We weren’t really trying to trap out of it a whole lot; we just wanted to slow them down a little bit. We worked really hard on defense this week in preparation for today. We didn’t have a great game on Monday. I thought our guys came in and did a great job playing defense today.”

Owens, the Admirals go-to-guy on the offensive end of the court, talked about saving his scoring punch for the later stages of the contest.

“I wasn’t forcing it. In the first quarter we were scoring, so I didn’t really need to [score],” added Owens. “I was just getting my teammates involved. When it came to me, I just got it done.”

According to Keith, Owens makes the Admirals a better offensive team by keeping his teammates involved.

“You have to get other people involved in the offense and he does a great job with that,” said Keith. “He is still able to get his points while allowing other people to score. If we become just the LJ show, we are not really good on offense. When he spreads the ball, which he does night in and night out, we get other people scoring and we are tough on offense.”

Ward scored 18 points to lead St. Paul’s and Wright finished with 10 for the Crusaders. St. Paul’s (12-7 overall, 7-2 MIAA B) continues to own a comfortable lead at the top of Black Division. Severn (13-8 overall) improved to 6-2 in the league. The Admirals sit in second place in the Red Division, a half game back of Annapolis Area Christian.

In a league that appears wide open, Keith is hopeful that his team can compete for a championship when the playoffs get underway later this month.

“You hope,” the coach said when asked if his squad has what it takes to go all the way. “You need some things to go your way. You just don’t know night in and night out. This is a tough league and every team can beat any team on any night, but this was a big game for us.”

NO. 19 SEVERN 65, NO. 20 ST. PAUL’S 44
SEV  17  15  12  21  —  65
SP      3    9   13  19  —  44
Burch 12, Hall 5, Owens 22, Terry 13, Harmon 2, Lilly 8, Berko 2, Thompson 2. TOTALS: 21 18-25 65.
Reid 8, Rogan 3, Wright 10, Ward 18, Walker 2, Smothers 1, Sawyer 2. TOTALS 15 8-11 45.