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  • Chesapeake's Trace Carleton advanced the ball against the defense of Northeast's Jaylin Albury on January 5. The Cougars jumped out to an early 17-2 lead and held off Northeast's charge to win, 61-57.
    Photo by Julie Thompson Persell
    Chesapeake's Trace Carleton advanced the ball against the defense of Northeast's Jaylin Albury on January 5. The Cougars jumped out to an early 17-2 lead and held off Northeast's charge to win, 61-57.

Chesapeake Boys Defeat Northeast As Rematch, Playoffs Draw Near

Colin Murphy
View Bio
January 24, 2018

On paper, the first five weeks of the season were looking pretty rough for the Chesapeake boys basketball team. The Cougars got off to an 0-7 start.

But Chesapeake didn’t lose focus. The Cougars closed 2017 with their first win of the season, a 56-47 victory over Coppin Academy on December 29, beginning a streak of wins in four of their next five games.

One of those wins came on January 5, when the Cougars went into Northeast’s gym on a Friday night and led from start to finish in a 61-57 victory. Joe Seidler led all scorers with 23 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to go with three steals. Dylan Young scored eight points, handed out eight assists and had three steals, while Russell Tongue scored nine points to go with three assists and three steals.

“The biggest difference is defense,” said Chesapeake head coach Shawn Rebstock of the Cougars’ turn of fortune. At Northeast, Chesapeake raced out to a big lead by holding the Eagles to just two first-quarter points. “My couple years here, we’ve always prided ourselves on defense, and we had to get back to what we do best. It started during the Christmas tournament, and it’s really fed into this year, and that’s where it’s all started for us, on the defensive end. The Northeast game, it’s always a big game no matter what the records, so to lead from start to finish in that game and play as well as we did defensively, it was great.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Chesapeake vs. Northeast boys and girls basketball, 1.5.18

Sophomore Alonzo Wilkes has anchored the Cougars’ zone schemes by protecting the rim with an average of 1.5 blocks per game. Seidler and Matt Kern are each averaging just under seven rebounds per game, and Tongue is averaging 2.5 steals per game.

Ball movement and balanced scoring has also helped the Cougars’ surge. Trace Carleton leads the team in scoring at 10.5 points per game on 81 percent free-throw shooting and 49.5 percent shooting on 3-pointers, while Kern is averaging nine points per game. Kern scored 20 and Carleton had 19 when Chesapeake got its fourth win of the year on January 9, beating Severna Park, 63-57. With the Cougars in early foul trouble, Khalil Gary, Mike Cybert and Tyler Shadle all played valuable minutes in the win over the Falcons.

Young, a junior, has also upped his game from the point guard position, providing leadership and a steady hand in orchestrating the offense. He leads the Cougars with seven assists per game and had a school-record 14 in Chesapeake’s win over Severna Park, and he notched 12 assists in Chesapeake’s 72-63 loss Meade on January 12, a game in which the Cougars showed great fight against one of the top contenders for the county and region.

“We were off to a slow start and weren’t playing together,” said Young. “These last six games, we came together as a team, we’re shooting the ball a lot better, passing the ball and moving the ball well. Everybody on the team is contributing, so it’s been a good little run for us.”

On the other side of Pasadena, Northeast has seen ups and downs through the season’s first seven weeks. The Eagles started 3-3 but have endured struggles en route to a 4-8 record through January 17.

Jaylin Albury led the Eagles with 14 points against Chesapeake, while Cam Christian had 11, Brennen Volkman had nine and Josh Cain and Brandon Seeley had eight points each. Brandon LeBarron contributed five points, Paul Lim had four and Anthony Stewart had two, but the Eagles couldn’t overcome their slow start against the Cougars.

Coach Roger O’Dea’s team is a double-edged sword; the roster is deep with talent — as many as 11 Eagles see regular minutes — but the right lineup combinations haven’t organically risen to the top. Seeley, Stewart and LeBarron all average just under 10 points per game, but the Eagles need to allow less than their current opponent average of 60.6 points per game to give themselves a better chance at victories.

“We have a bunch of good kids. We can go 11 men, but we’re not playing as a team yet,” said O’Dea. “We’re not a finished product. We’ve got until the end of the season and the playoffs, that’s what I keep telling the kids, to make adjustments and figure out our identity. If we come out and play, we can beat anybody. We can hang with people. We’re not getting blown out. We’re just not playing as a team yet. [We’ll improve] once we start focusing on making the extra pass and our defense.”

Based on current records and the tight score of the first meeting between the Cougars and Eagles, the rematch on February 9 at Chesapeake will be a close battle, and more than just bragging rights will be at stake. Chesapeake and Northeast compete in Section II of the 3A East along with Stephen Decatur and J.M. Bennett, and with only four teams in the section, all four automatically get a bye into the second round. Both Wicomico County programs look strong this season and will likely have the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively. Out of the Cougars and Eagles, whoever finishes better in the regular season will avoid the long drive down to Ocean City and a meeting with Stephen Decatur, the reigning 3A East champ, in their first playoff game. Instead, a slightly shorter drive to Salisbury and a more palatable matchup with J.M. Bennett, an ostensibly lesser opponent, would go to whichever Pasadena school can secure the No. 3 seed.

Not that either team needs any extra motivation against its fiercest rival. After Northeast’s playoff victory over the Cougars a year ago, Seidler said this year’s first regular-season rematch was a good chance for a little payback as well as a showcase of Chesapeake’s overall improved play.

“We’ve just been finishing, playing from start to finish,” said Seidler. “We’re hustling, and it’s easier to hustle down the court when everyone is. … We never want to lose to [Northeast,] so to go over there and [win], it was a pretty good feeling.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Chesapeake vs. Northeast boys and girls basketball, 1.5.18

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