He made faces, he pounded his chest and he taunted the crowd, but after nearly two hours of acting like a madman on the basketball court, Friendly Patriots point guard Sherrod Baltimore still found time to carry his team to a much-needed road win. The diminutive senior didn’t lead his team in points, but his leadership on the floor guided Friendly to a 62-54 victory over the Gwynn Park Yellow Jackets on Jan. 28.

Baltimore, who moonlights as a defensive back for Friendly’s football team, has already committed to the University of Maine but he was more than committed to helping Friendly move into second place in the Prince George’s County 3A division during a hostile game. With Friendly hailing from Fort Washington, Md. and Gwynn Park located in Brandywine, Md, only a short 15-minute drive separates the two rivals. Players from both schools are quite familiar with each other, and even the opposing students recognize each other. It made for a rowdy night as both schools scrapped to the finish, cheered on by a raucous crowd.

“The Friendly and Gwynn Park rivalry is special and unique,” said Friendly coach Rob Garner. “I think our kids were motivated it was very emotional.”

After taking a four-point lead into the half, Friendly’s cushion evaporated after an emotional third quarter from Gwynn Park. Senior forward Tion Barnes (20 points, 14 rebounds) ignited the crowd with a series of electrifying dunks. The 6-foot, 5-inch Gwynn Park forward sliced through the lane for a one-handed throwdown to pull his team within one point. Later, he finished a rebound with a two-handed putback to put Gwynn Park up by three points. Gwynn Park exited the third with a one-point lead that got Friendly refocused on the task at hand.

Senior guard Michael Johnson led Friendly (12-3, 9-2) with 18 points but he was clutch in the final quarter. Despite an ankle injury, Johnson found room for some tough layups as he and Baltimore (13 points) combined to help put down a feisty Gwynn Park (9-6, 8-3) team late in the game.

“It was tough for me,” Baltimore said. “Gwynn Park is a great team but we were able to bounce back and keep our composure. It’s my job to be the leader and keep everybody’s heads in the game.”
 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO