No. 2 Southern clinched first place in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference Division II by downing No. 5 Walbrook, 70-58, last night at Walbrook.
The Bulldogs denied Walbrook an outside shot at forcing a tie for first place by erasing an early five-point deficit and running off the final 11 points of the first quarter to build a 22-15 lead. The Bulldogs never trailed by fewer than four points the rest of the way.
Walbrook needed to beat the Bulldogs and hope Calvert Hall would upset Southern in its final league game next week to gain a tie.
Instead, the MSA playoffs in two weeks are now set. Southern (17-4, 9-0) will meet Lake Clifton, the second-place finisher in Division I, in a playoff game Feb. 25 with the winner advancing to the Metro Classic and the conference title game at the Baltimore Arena March 1.
Walbrook (13-9, 7-3) will meet Dunbar in the other playoff contest. Dunbar beat Lake Clifton, 97-72, last night to clinch first place in Division I.
Southern beat Lake Clifton, 82-76, last month, and Dunbar beat Walbrook, 93-74.
Last night Southern got balanced scoring as four players reached double figures. Senior guard Kwame Evans had 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Sophomore guard Damon Cason had 15 points and 12 assists. Sophomore forward Dante Williams had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and junior forward Kevin Simpson had 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Williams and junior forward Tyrone Smith led the Bulldogs with their rebounding in the first half. Williams had eight first-half rebounds, and Smith had seven. They sparked the 11-0 run at the end of the first quarter that wiped out a 15-11 Walbrook lead.
Each had a follow tap for a basket during an 8-2 run early in the second quarter that pushed the Bulldogs' lead to 30-18. Williams had three follow layups in the first quarter.
"He [Williams] saved us in the first half," Southern coach Meredith Smith said. "He and Tyrone had an excellent board game in the first half."
Walbrook never got closer than seven the rest of the half, trailing, 40-28, at halftime.
The Warriors put together a 6-0 run midway through the third quarter to get within 44-40 on a layup by Eric Carroll, but it was a costly layup. Undercut unintentionally by Williams, Carroll fell and hurt his back. He left with assistance and did not return until 2:48 of the fourth quarter.
By then Southern had pushed its lead to 60-51 and begun working the clock. The Bulldogs made eight of 10 foul shots from that point on to put the game away.
"I thought we played under control," Smith said. "When they cut it to four we kept our poise and didn't panic. We stayed with our game plan."
Carroll, a junior guard, finished with 16 for the Warriors. Senior forward Jermaine Porter finished with 19 after a slow start.