HAGERSTOWN, Md. - After the display Shalom Christian's boys basketball team put on Saturday night, it's a little hard to believe that just two years ago, the Flames were 2-18.
With practically the same roster as the 2013-14 season, Shalom came full circle this season. The Flames defeated the No. 1-seeded Shenandoah Valley Patriots, 67-46, to claim the Mason-Dixon Christian Conference championship.
"It's amazing," Shalom junior Chase Martin said. "Freshman year, we were not a good team. We struggled so much. To grow and get to this point, I'm overwhelmed. Some of the players are saying it feels like a dream, and it really does."
The Patriots (26-6) were the obvious favorites entering the title matchup. They had beaten Shalom twice by scores of 60-41 and 75-68 during the regular season. Moreover, Shenandoah Valley was averaging 78 points per game, while the closest Shalom got to that mark was 75 points once this year.
But the Flames' defense stalled SVCA to a season-low 43 points, and Shalom (21-6) got huge offensive outputs from leading scorers Jonah Stains and Cameron Roseman to ensure the victory.
"I give credit to Shalom because their defense had some intensity, and our kids got a little selfish, I thought," Patriots coach Philip Combs said. "I felt like we tried to push the ball too much and tried to force too much instead of letting the game come to us. We really rely on the 3-point shot, and we didn't come out hitting it very well."
Stains said, "We wanted to jab a little bit on help defense, just to show them that we were there. When they made a move, we slid the whole way with them. We tried not to reach, but slide with them and cut them off. We made their guards pass it out, and they had to live off their shots. Fortunately, they didn't hit enough."
The game was close through one quarter, and Shenandoah Valley actually led 13-7 at the first buzzer. But then Shalom broke things open, winning the second quarter 23-5. Stains hit back-to-back layups to give the Flames their first lead of the game just three minutes into the second. From there, Shalom never trailed.
After pulling within one on a Michael Truong free throw, Shenandoah Valley watched any momentum it had gained slip away, as the Flames scored 12 straight.
"That strong start was a big help," Martin said. "In the past couple games (against SVCA), they came out shooting hot and we struggled with it. But for us to come out and take the lead early, that really gave us the momentum to get the win."
Stains put forth a huge effort for Shalom. He went 14-for-18 from the line and totaled 30 points and six rebounds. Roseman scored a season-high 24 points - just three off the top mark in his career - and he provided seven rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists.
"I think they played like the all-conference players that they are," Shalom coach Danley Shank said. "For us to score offensively, we do look to Jonah and Cam heavily, but they'll tell you that they don't do it by themselves. We want to do it as a team. Everybody around them helps them get open; we ran good offense tonight, we were patient, and when it came time for them to make shots, they did."
Combs said, "The previous two games, (Jonah) scored at least 20 on us, so tonight, we were going to let him do what he does. We were going to try to keep the others down. Their other four stepped up big tonight, and they showed what a team is about."
Shalom 67, Shen. Valley 46
Shalom Christian (67)
Chase Martin 1 1-2 3, Barrett Eshbaugh 0 0-0 0, Cameron Roseman 7 8-10 24, Jonah Stains 6 14-18 30, Micah Lehman 4 0-0 8, Josh Coldsmith 1 0-0 2, Travis West 0 0-0 0, Connor Tiedemann 0 0-0 0. Totals — 19 23-30 67.
Shen. Valley (46)
Michael Truong 5 5-6 16, Eric Truong 4 1-2 11, Milos Vasilic 0 1-2 1, Eldar Hotic 1 0-2 2, Marko Djuric 3 0-0 6, Curtis Kasinski 3 1-2 9, Archer Kasinski 0 1-2 1. Totals — 16 9-16 46.
Shalom Chr. _ 7 _ 23 _ 18 _ 19 _ — _ 57
Shen. Valley _ 13 _ 5 _ 8 _ 20 _ — _ 46
3-point goals — SC 2 (Roseman), SV 5 (E.Truong 2, C.Kasinski 2, M.Truong).