Ocean City Today

Decatur’s defense key to success

By Managing Editor, Lisa Capitelli | Dec 07, 2017
Photo by: Lisa Capitelli “We need to hone in on defense,” said Decatur boys’ basketball Coach BJ Johnson. “If the kids buy into playing defense, that’s going to be our ticket to be successful.”

(Dec. 8, 2017) The Stephen Decatur boys’ basketball team has been successful during the last two seasons.

The Seahawks went 24-3 in 2015-16 and 25-2 last year, for a combined record of 49-5.

The Berlin squad has also gone undefeated on its home court during the past two years. The last time Decatur lost a home game was Feb. 28, 2015, when the Seahawks fell to Huntingtown, 65-54, in the first round of playoffs. They finished the 2014-15 season with an 8-15 record.

At the end of the 2016-17 season, the group was on a 26-game win streak at home.

Decatur captured the program’s first Bayside Conference championship title last year and earned its second consecutive regional title.

The ultimate goal is to win a state championship and the team is knocking on the door. The squad lost 74-44 to Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in the tournament semifinals last season. Polytechnic went on to win the 3A state championship. The Seahawks fell in overtime, 51-49, to C. Milton Wright in the 3A state title game the year before.

“We want to continue that [win streak] at home. Of course we want to win them all, but that’s a big deal for us,” Coach BJ Johnson said. “We’re back-to-back regional champs and we won the Bayside for first time in school history last year. We’re looking to be back-to-back Bayside champs and repeat as regionals champs and hopefully win a state championship.”

To be successful this year, Johnson, now in his fifth season as head coach, said solid defense will be vital and the players must come together as one unit.

“Everything we predicate is defense. Offense is going to come,” he said. “We need to hone in on defense. If the kids buy into playing defense, that’s going to be our ticket to be successful.”

Six of the 12 players on the varsity team this year competed last season. Senior captains Kevon Voyles and Ryan Danaher will lead the squad.

Voyles, a point guard, earned Bayside South Conference First Team accolades for his performance last year. He finished the season second overall in scoring with 430 points. Keve Aluma – Bayside South Player of the Year – was Decatur’s top producer with 434 points and 320 rebounds. He is now a freshman at Wofford College in South Carolina, playing for the school’s Division I program. Gary Briddell Jr. was third in points with 402.

“We lost two kids who have really gotten off to a great start in college, Keve Aluma at Wofford University and Gary Briddell at Salisbury. It’s going to be hard to fill those shoes, in my opinion,” Johnson said. “I know some of these kids will step up. We’ll see what happens.”

Johnson will rely heavily on Voyles this season.

“It starts with him. We’re looking for big things from Kevon,” Johnson said. “I know a lot of the teams are going to come and try to take him out. He’ll be playing point guard, but he’s going to do a little bit of everything … He stands about 6 [feet] 3 [inches] and he uses his size well. We’re going to ask him to do a lot this year.”

Voyles, who was also a team captain last year, is looking forward to his leadership role this season.

“This is my final year and I’ve been leading this team since my sophomore year. I play point guard, so I feel like it’s my turn to take control of the team and lead them to victory,” he said. “Basically, I’m like the coach on the court. I’m just the vocal leader out there.”

Voyles said the team has progressed over the last few weeks.

“We’re really building chemistry on and off the court. We’re just coming together and we’re starting to gel,” he said. “Getting that state championship, that’s the goal. It’s going to take grit, heart and determination. We’ve got to play with that every night. We’ve got to play together and play for each other.”

Danaher is excited for the season and to help lead the team. Johnson said he has been rebounding the ball extremely well.

“I’m a vocal leader. I’ve been on the team for two years so I know what’s going on,” he said. “I’m a power forward, small forward, and that’s more a versatile role. We’ve got two big guys on the team – [sophomore] Churchill Bounds and [sophomore] Gabe Aluma, so I’ll be playing down low in the paint a little bit, but I can pop out if they need me to and shoot or dribble.”

Johnson said he expects Bounds to have a great year and he is looking for some big things from seniors Hayden Frazier and Tah’Jeem Woodland. All three received Bayside South Conference Honorable Mention distinction for their performance last season.

“Churchill got a lot of minutes last year and started some games,” Johnson said. “Hayden and Taj are two of our really good defensive players. We’re going to ask them to put a lot of pressure on the ball.”

Johnson said senior John Taylor, a transfer from Wicomico High School, has good skills and shoots the ball well. He hopes Taylor can contribute as well.

Johnson is pleased with what he has seen so far from his players.

“They’re working extremely hard. If that’s an indication, then I think we’ll be fine,” he said. “We have pretty good size and I feel like that’s one of our strengths … we’re going to take one game at a time and just see where the chips may fall.”

Decatur won its season opener, 68-51, over North Caroline on Tuesday in Berlin. The Seahawks led 25-13 at the end of the first quarter and 40-23 at halftime. After three quarters, they were ahead 57-36.

Voyles was the top scorer with 20 points. Taylor had 19 points. Danaher led the team in rebounds with nine. He chipped in four points.

“I’m excited. I thought they did really well, especially defensively, and that’s what we talk about – playing defense and I thought they got after it. Ryan did a helluva job on the boards,” Johnson said. “They were hyped because it was their first game and we haven’t lost in two years at home. That was enough motivation for them.”

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