No. 5 Engineers return to 3A state boys’ hoops final behind record-breaking day from Mims; Millers brush aside Thomas Johnson (VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS HERE!!)

Milford Mill’s Eric Turner lays up two of his 20 points in the first half of Thursday’s Class 3A state boys’ basketball semifinal match with Thomas Johnson. The No. 7 Millers advanced to the state final with a 68-59 decision over the Patriots at the University of Maryland.

by Andy States

Special to VSN

Early in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s Class 3A boys’ basketballl semifinal at Xfinity Center, Poly’s Demetrius Mims capped a fast break with a huge windmill dunk to run the Engineers’ lead to 54-29 against Stephen Decatur. The high-percentage shot carried a bit of extra significance as Mims became the Engineers’ all-time leading scorer.

But the senior has other things on his mind.

“I’m trying to go out with a ring with my two [senior teammates],” Mims said. “Breaking the record means a lot to me, but it doesn’t mean nothing if I don’t end the season with a ring.”

After a 63-46 victory, Mims and the fifth-ranked Engineers – the defending 3A state champions – will get that opportunity. Poly (21-6 overall) will play No.  7 Milford Mill Academy in an all-Baltimore area showdown, 3 p.m. on Saturday on Gary Williams Court. Milford Mill defeated Thomas Johnson, 68-59, in the other 3A state final four contest Thursday.

Poly worked its way through an arduous regional road, with narrow wins at Potomac in Prince George’s County and St. Mary’s County’s Great Mills. Thursday, the Engineers took control early and enjoyed a double-digit margin through the majority of the game against Seahawks (18-8) from Worchester County.

“It was great to step up early and have our guys establish a nice early lead,” Poly coach Sam Brand said.

Decatur held a 3-2 lead after Kevon Voyles three-point play in the game’s opening moments, but Poly reeled off a 12-point run punctuated by a Justin Lewis dunk that pushed the Engineers’ lead to 14-3. Poly led 21-9 at the end of a quarter, and extended the edge to 38-19 by half, and 51-28 after three.

Mims, who will play for Long Beach State University next season, led all scorers with 30 points, giving him 1,498 for his four-year varsity career. He surpassed John McLean (1,496), who graduated in 1996.

Poly’s defense held Voyles, the Seahawks’ top scorer, to 19 points on 6 of 20 shooting from the floor. Brand credited  senior Cleveland Horton’s tireless work on the defensive end against Voyles, a Maryland-Eastern Shore signee.

“Demetrius broke Poly’s all-time scoring record today. That was really exciting,” Brand said, “but I just thought if you’re reporting on this game and you don’t talk about the defense that Cleveland Horton played then I don’t think you watched the same game that I did. He was just unbelievable.”

A year ago, Poly defeated Decatur in the semifinals on the way to its first state title. For the Seahawks, it was another night that ended in disappointment.

“We played a really good Poly team,” Decatur coach Bryon Johnson said. “Our kids left it on the floor. We’re excited to be here, but the ultimate goal is to win. Unfortunately we came up a little bit short. I give all the credit to my kids for playing hard and not quitting.”

Despite an early second half spurt, Milford Mill wasn’t able to shake off Frederick’s Thomas Johnson until late to earn its first state title berth since

Ugo Obasi and Eric Turner each scored 20 points to lead all scorers, while Jordan Goodwin tacked on another 14 for the Millers (20-3).

Leading 30-27 at halftime, Milford Mill went on an 8-0 run by the Millers through the middle portion of the third period, highlighted by Obasi’s three-point play and a three-ball from Turner, pushing their lead to a seemingly comfortable 48-34 with 2:43 left in the quarter. The Patriots ended the quarter on a modest 6-2 run to close to 52-43 entering the final eight minutes.

Thomas Johnson (23-4) closed the gap in the fourth, and trailed 63-59 with 27.2 seconds to play. But the Baltimore County schoolscored the game’s final five points to seal its final spot.

“Thomas Johnson was a tough team. We had to get our guys together,” Milford Mill coach Ryan Smith said. “We were a little rusty. We hadn’t played since last Saturday. I knew once we got it together and rebounded a little bit more..I told the kids if we boxed out and made a few more foul shots we’d take control of the game.”

Thomas Johnson scored the game’s first five points, but Milford Mill finally got on the board with Obasi’s three-pointer, 3 minutes 6 seconds into the game and got things rolling. An emphatic Darius Woods dunk left the Millers with a 15-11 lead over the Patriots through the first eight minutes.

The Patriots cut their deficit to three by the half, but Milford Mill was able to extend its lead in the third quarter. The Patriots had three players score in double figures, with Braxton Foreman’s 17 leading the team. Richard Rivas scored 15, while J.R. Powe chipped in with 12.

Thomas Johnson coach John Manley lamented his team’s poor shooting from the foul line down the stretch. The Patriots finished the game 16 of 27 from the line.

“I thought we were right in it going into halftime,” Manley said. “They got out to a big lead on us at one part and I remember Richard coming over to the huddle with us and said, ‘We just have to chip away, keep chipping away.’ We got it down to five at one point with about five to go. We had a shot. I think free throws were the killer. If we hit our free throws it’s a whole different ballgame.”

The last time Milford Mill played in the state final four, it was surprised by southern Maryland’s Westlake in a 3A semifinal in 2014.

Demetrius Mims prepares to slam down two points for Poly in Thursday’s Class 3A state semifinal match with Stephen Decatur. The senior became the fifth-ranked Engineers’ all-time leading scorer, finishing with 30 points as the Baltimore City school will defend its state title Saturday afternoon against Milford Mill at the Xfinity Center.

Smith, in his fourth season, said his team, especially the seniors, have worked to get back to College Park.

“We’ve been in the process of getting this thing back down here, starting with these guys,” said Smith.

Class 3A state boys’ basketball semifinals

at University of Maryland

No. 7 Milford Mill Academy 68, Thomas Johnson 59

TJ     11 16 16 16

MM     15 15 22 16

Thomas Johnson: Foreman 17, Rivas 15, Powe 12, Brooks 8, Giles 7. Totals 19 16-27 59.

Milford Mill: Obasi 20, Turner 20, Goodwin 14, Woods 6, Milton 5, Goodwyn 2, Park 1. Totals 24 13-24 68.

No. 5 Poly 63, Stephen Decatur 46

SD     9 10 9 18

P     21 17 13 12

Decatur: Voyles 19, Church 7, Fraizer 6, Danaher 4, Woodland 4, BeJa 2, Shockley 2, Bounds 2. Totals 15 12-20 46.

Poly: Mims 30, Lewis 9, Ali 8, Jones 5, Walker 5, Horton 3, Wallace 3. 23 11-16 63.