Trojans head to Perryville after close call in 1st round

WORTON — When assessing the excitement value, if you’re a Trojan fan, Tuesday night’s basketball game here was worth the price of admission.  Somehow, someway, Kent County defeated St. Michaels, 46-44, in the opening round of the Class 1A East Region boys basketball tournament.

The Trojans scored what held up to be the winning bucket with 4.2 seconds to play and then prevented their guests from getting past midcourt as the buzzer sounded, setting off a wild celebration in the student section that spilled out onto the court.

Kent County (7-13) and St. Michaels (6-15) split the regular-season series, each winning on their home court.

The Trojans now advance to today’s East Region I semifinal at top-seeded Perryville (14-5). Tip-off is at 5 p.m.

Tuesday’s game was back-and-forth.

KCHS trailed by as many as six points in the opening frame and led by as many as six with just under five minutes to play.

Senior point guard Nakhi Miller, who led the North division of the Bayside Conference in scoring last season, put the Saints on his back and almost carried them across the finish line. He put up a game high of 31 points, which included 20-of-23 shooting from the stripe.

Junior post player JySir Valentine led the Trojans with 21 points, including eight in the all-important fourth quarter.

Valentine, Larry Steward and Rah Zir Wilson played sparingly in the opening half after each picked up a second foul before the end of the first quarter. 

RJ Peterson ultimately fouled out, Gavin Miller and Valentine finished with four fouls apiece, and Jonah Somerville, Dwan Harris and Steward each finished with three.

All told, the Trojans had 24 team fouls compared to only 10 for the Saints.

“A lot of this game was early foul trouble, and I had to go to my bench,” KCHS head coach Sobaye Scott told The Evening Enterprise in an interview in the locker room after the game.

When Kent County picked up its fifth team foul with only 4 minutes, 51 seconds elapsed, St. Michaels was in the two-shot bonus for the remainder of the first quarter. Nakhi Miller drained a pair of free throws to kick off a run of 10 unanswered points as the Saints pulled ahead, 14-9.

Miller scored 12 of the Saints’ 14 first-quarter points, including 7-of-8 from the stripe.

Trailing 16-13 with 3:30 remaining in the second quarter, Kent County had three junior varsity call-ups, freshman Harris and senior Mehki Rogers on the court.

By intermission, the Trojans had closed to 20-18 on back-to-back buckets from Valentine and sophomore call-up Kiyan Hynson over the final 26.9 seconds.

They regained the lead at 23-22 and led 26-24 at the end of the third quarter. 

KCHS sent out Valentine, Steward, Harris, Somerville and Gavin Miller to start the action-packed fourth quarter.

Nakhi Miller made two free throws with only 35 seconds gone to knot the score at 26.

On the Trojans’ next trip down the court, Gavin Miller buried a 3-pointer from the left corner to start a 7-1 run that pushed them on top, 33-27, with 5:50 remaining.

KCHS continued to lead by as many as five points, 37-32, on Hynson’s putback with just under three and a half minutes to play.

Then Nakhi Miller and Johnny Mautz (11 points) went to work for the Saints, who took a 40-39 lead on Mautz’s reverse layup with 1:36 to go that Miller followed with two more free throws 20 seconds later.

Somerville’s 3-pointer at 1:02 pulled the Trojans back into a 42-42 tie.

KCHS regained possession after a jump ball with 52.7 seconds to go, but came up empty.

The Saints cashed in on their next opportunity to take the lead, 44-42, when Nakhi Miller made two more free throws with 29.2 seconds remaining.

Valentine responded in kind, leveling the score at 44 with 19.5 seconds to go.

Coach Scott then called a time-out.

On the restart on the inbounds under the Trojans’ basket, the Saints drew a foul to send Nakhi Miller to the line one last time. He missed both free throws, and Valentine grabbed the rebound of the second shot.

At the other end, St. Michaels rebounded Kent County’s miss from the floor, but then was whistled for traveling.

Scott used another time-out to set up two options with the clock showing 5.7 seconds remaining and the score tied at 44.

The preferred option was a lob from Harris on the inbound to the 6-foot-5 Valentine, who was to roll off a double-screen for a high-percentage shot in the paint. The Trojans executed the play just as coaches Scott and Buck Kennard had drawn up, and they took the lead for good.

The Saints quickly inbounded but were bottled up near the far sideline and could not advance into their offensive end of the court before the horn sounded to end the game.

Valentine led a balanced scoring effort from the Trojans, which included 10 points from Somerville and five from Steward.

Junior varsity call-ups Hynson, Miller and Zayvion Brown collectively scored the remaining 10 points.

Also worth noting is the play of Mehki Rogers, who played valuable minutes off the bench , especially when the Trojans were beset by early foul trouble. “He made his presence felt,” Scott said of Rogers.

NOTES: In the other 1A East Region I semifinal on Thursday, Feb. 29, Colonel Richardson (12-8) hosts Bo Manor (9-11). Both received a first-round bye, as did Perryville.

The region final is Tuesday, March 5 at the highest remaining seed.



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