By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO
After its boys and girls basketball teams were once again victorious in the city championships, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute continues to reign as a basketball powerhouse.
Engineers’ forward Justin Lewis, a nationally ranked prospect, finished with team highs of 27 points and 10 rebounds, and guard Brandon Murray chipped in with 13 points as Poly cruised to a 61-44 city title win over Lake Clifton on Feb. 25 at the campus of Morgan State University.
Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Boys Basketball team. (Courtesy Photo)
Poly Head Coach Sam Brand said he was proud of his team’s overall effort and ability to build a large lead early on and hold off their opponents’ comeback effort late in the game. “I’m really happy we started out the way we did. We hadn’t played in about three weeks, so starting out like that was key for us,” Brand said, also commending Lewis for his leadership and initiative.
“Justin Lewis was a leader tonight verbally in a way that he’s come to be now but it’s not something that we’ve had from him in previous years, so his leadership when they started to come back was great to see, and then us just finishing.”
At the end of the first, Poly led 21-5 and at the half led 34-17.
Capitalizing on its size advantage for second-chance buckets and interior defense was pivotal in maintaining a double-digit lead down the stretch for Poly. Gray was able to put in some tough shots, and close his team’s deficit to 11 at one point in the third quarter. However, Poly responded with a run of its own to lead by as much as 20 in the fourth quarter en route to a third city title in the past five seasons.
Senior guards Rahim Ali and Ian Wallace combined for 12 points and eight rebounds for Poly (21-2).
Lacking mental and physical toughness were some of the reasons the Lakers fell into an early 17-point deficit, Lake Clifton Head Coach Herman Harried said. Though Lake Clifton made intermittent scoring runs, not being able to make the “extra play” held it back from closing the deficit, he added.
“We didn’t play well,” Harried told the AFRO after the loss.
“Poly played well, they did the things necessary to win. They played good as a group, we didn’t play good as a group. They did the little things, we didn’t do the little things. And they were well-deserving of the win.”
With a bye in the first round of the MPSSAA 3-A state playoffs, Poly will have about a week break until its first postseason game. Likewise, Lake Clifton has a bye and will likely begin its postseason early next week.
Poly girls basketball tops Western 52-48, wins third consecutive city championship
Poly guard Dasia Townes netted a team-high 16 points to go with seven rebounds and two assists, and forward Ajae Petty recorded 15 points and seven rebounds to lead the Engineers to a narrow 52-48 win over Western on Feb. 25 at Morgan State’s Hill Field House.
Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Girls Basketball team. (Courtesy Photo)
Poly’s inside game and depth proved to be the deciding factor down the stretch. The win gives the Engineers momentum heading into the MPSSAA 3A state playoffs. “It’s a big deal in a lot of ways, not just because it’s a win, but it’s a big deal because it gets us off the train of thinking about what we need to be doing to get ready to move into playoffs,” Poly Head Coach Kendall Peace said.
Poly used its overwhelming size advantage for easy baskets inside and second-chance points to build an early double-digit lead. The Doves put in a few 3-pointers toward the end of the first as the Engineers led, 17-10, heading to the second period.
To open the third quarter, Western guard Ny’ceara Pryor drilled two 3-pointers to spark a comeback rally for her team. Townes had a big third quarter for the Engineers, but Western used its tenacity and grit to fight back and trail Poly 36-32 heading to the fourth.
Guards Mya Henson and Sanaya Gray chipped in with some crucial buckets down the stretch to help Western outscore Poly, 19-9, in the third. Pryor nailed three free throws to bring Western to within one (45-44) with a little more than a minute remaining. An elbow jumper by Townes and layup by Petty made it a two-possession game with just under a minute remaining, but Western wouldn’t let up.
Henson’s lay-in off a feed from Gray cut Western’s deficit to 50-48 with 18.2 seconds left in the contest, leaving the Doves with no option but to foul on Poly’s next inbound.
On the other end, Poly’s Da’Brya Clark sank two free throws to seal the win as the Engineers notched a Baltimore City championship three-peat.
“When we came out, that was our goal – to get ahead so that we could just stay ahead and just keep pushing it. And so it kind of worked out in our favor,” Townes said after the win.
Pryor scored a game-high 20 and added eight boards to lead Western (16-4). Western Head Coach Kenneth Robinson liked the resilience his team showed in the second half, and feels his team can only go up from this loss.
“We’re young and we’re hungry. We had two goals – city title, state title. We just came up short on one, now that pushes our aggression and everything toward the title,” Robinson said.
“We will win the next five games and become state champions. That’s our main goal.”
Demetrius Dillard is a freelance writer based in Baltimore, Md. with a passion for sports and community news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Meach_33.