At the start of the season, Digital Harbor’s boys basketball coach Johnnie Grimes knew that he had a collective group of talented players. But with several transfer and first-year players, he also knew that it would take a while for the team to build its chemistry.

After the Rams’ dominating performance in Friday night’s Class 2A state semifinals against Gwynn Park, it’s hard to believe that this squad hasn’t played together for a couple of years.

The Baltimore City school had three players tally double-doubles on its way to a dominating, 75-45, rout over the Yellow Jackets of Prince George’s County at the University of Maryland.

“Right now, they are really, really jelling and they are giving so much of a big effort on the defensive end, especially in rebounding the ball,” Grimes said of his team.

“In the beginning, we knew that we could jell but we started off bad,” junior guard Daquan Cook explained.  “But we knew that we would come together. We practiced hard every day.”

Digital Harbor began the season with a 3-3 mark but slowly started to play as a cohesive unit as the year wore on.  In last Friday’s 2A North Regional championship, the Rams avenged an earyl season loss to Edmondson by stunning the Red Storm, 80-55, to claim the title.

Digital turned in another impressive win at the Comcast Center. Junior Antonio Manns led the way with a game-high 16 points and 11 rebounds. Cook filled the stat sheet with 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Nyme Manns added 15 points and 10 boards.  Senior Kevin Smith contributed eight points.

Daniel Henry had 15 points, while Tion Barnes and Jalen Harris each had 9 for Gwynn Park (17-9).

“I think we came into the season with not much chemistry,” said Antonio Manns. “We had a lot of transfers and then once we got ourselves together, we just started playing together and going hard…We just want to go out and play strong and play together.”

The Rams (15-7) scored the first seven points of the game behind a jumper by Antonio Manns, a layup by Cook and a three-point play from Nyme Manns.  Gwynn Park closed to within 7-4 with 3:33 left in the first quarter but that was the closest the Jackets would get over the remaining 27 minutes.

Digital Harbor pushed the lead to 29-18 at halftime. Ronald Epps (seven points) finished a putback inside, Antonio Manns scored inside and Nyme Manns flushed a one-handed jam in a decisive 13-3 run in the third quarter to open the Rams’ lead to 44-26 midway through the period.

Ahead by 21 points entering the fourth quarter, Digital Harbor finished off Gwynn Park with an 11-0 run to push their advantage to 32 points.

The Rams dominated in every phase of the game.  They out-rebounded the taller Yellow Jackets, 49-29, including grabbing 14 offensive boards.  Digital Harbor was quicker to loose balls and played unselfishly.  Of the 29 field goals that they scored, 15 of those buckets were assisted.

“On this night, we got beat by a better team. I thought Digital Harbor played great,” said Gwynn Park coach Mike Glick. “They had an excellent game plan…In this game we were thoroughly outplayed in every aspect of the game.”

The Rams will face Easton, a 69-52 winner over South Carroll on Friday, in the Class 2A state championship tomorrow, Saturday, at 5 p.m.  Digital Harbor is looking for its second state crown in three years after winning the Class 1A title in 2009.

No. 8 Digital Harbor 75, Gwynn Park 45
Digital Harbor1118242275
Gwynn Park612141345
Digital Harbor:
Cook 15, K. Smith 8, Epps 7, N. Manns 15, A. Manns 16, Williams 2, Shango 2, Barnes 7, Conyers 2, D. Smith 1. Totals 29 20-31 75.
Gwynn Park:
Hall 1, Ford 2, Walton 2, Henry 15, Barnes 9, Hawkins 6, Harris 9, Grant 1.Totals 18 13-19 45.