On paper, this year’s Maryland 3A East region tournament will be different for Centennial. The Eagles, who won the 3A East in each of the last two seasons, won’t get the first-round bye they’ve enjoyed in past seasons and will have to play on the road as early as the tournament’s second round.
None of that has fazed the Eagles, who will open their postseason, confident as ever, at home against Stephen Decatur Feb. 26.
That confidence, Centennial Coach Chad Hollwedel said, is a product of experience from region championships in each of the past two seasons as well as a roster built around senior leadership. The Eagles feature just one underclassman and seven seniors, including guard Omari Ringgold, Howard County’s second leading scorer. Centennial boasts three seniors, Timi Tinuoye, Brad Benson and Joe Eads, who have played for two region champion teams.
“It is not, by any stretch, a one-man team. Omari’s had the point totals, but like I said, it’s Joe and Timi and even Brad Benson,” Hollwedel said. “Those three seniors have finished their seasons at Comcast, and there’s some experience factor there and some confidence going in that we’ve been able to do this before.”
The Eagles’ confidence is also partially borne of familiarity. Centennial played seven of the other 11 teams in the East region bracket as part of its Howard County schedule this season. The Eagles are also familiar with Annapolis, a team they beat in last year’s East region championship.
Centennial, which was assigned the region’s seventh seed in Sunday’s tournament draw, would get a second shot at River Hill in the second round if they can top Stephen Decatur. The Hawks beat Centennial in overtime in early January, and if Centennial can advance, the Eagles could potentially avenge a pair of regular-season losses against Reservoir in a region semifinal game.
“We knew we only had them once and they beat us at Centennial. I think they were down, but at the same time kids were looking forward to a chance to be able to play them again,” Hollwedel said of Centennial’s Jan. 9 loss against River Hill. “Part of that is be careful what you wish for because River Hill is a very good team, but the fact that they want to play teams again shows their attitude and determination.”