What was thought to be a pipe dream became reality Tuesday. Poly High is Baltimore City boys’ basketball champions.
The No. 2 Engineers completed their run atop the area’s toughest public league, defeating 11th-ranked Dunbar, 64-43, in the Division I final, in front of an estimated 2,000 at Coppin State University’s Physical Education Complex. Douglass outlasted Ben Franklin, 54-41, for the Division II crown while New Era Academy won the Division III title with a 57-47 victory over Reginald Lewis.
In only its third varsity season, New Era captured its first city crown as senior LaRon Gilmer posted a double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds, and D’Shawn Johnson contibuted 15 points. Corey Adamd and Myles Dawson each finished with 13 points for Reginald Lewis.
Leading by as many as 17 points, New Era withstood a Falcon second half to complete a three-game season sweep of Reginald Lewis. The Cherry Hill school did it with a second-year coaching staff and four new starters.
“The chemistry wasn’t there so it took us a little while to get everybody on the same page,” said New Era coach James Dawson. “We just continued working hard and kept progressing.”
The Dragons, who handled Reginald Lewis in the team’s last meeting, led 41-24 midway in the third. The Falcons stormed back, closing to 50-44 with 2 minutes, 41 seconds left in regulation on Donald Davis’ basket.
Shawn Matthews came up with a loose ball and scored off a pass from Johnson, putting New Era up, 52-44 with 1:57 left to play. Gilmer sealed the victory, grabbing his 12th and final rebound, and scoring off Ahmad Spriggs’ missed free throw for a 54-45 lead with a minute remaining.
Gilmer, the lone starter back last season, said the Dragons’ 61-60 home victory over Reginald Lewis in the first meeting set the table for the championship run.
“It took us a long time to get to know each other but we kept progressing,” said Gilmer.
New Era put things together in the second quarter Wednesday, building a 35-22 advantage as Gilmer scored 12 points, constantly attacking the basket. Gilmer had his team’s first two baskets in the second half as the Dragons advanced the lead to 17.
“That’s young man’s been doing it all year. He’s the greatest kid I’ve ever coached,” said Dawson. “He’s very disciplined and plays hard. He’s the biggest 6-2 kid I’ve ever met.”
Matthews, Spriggs and Johnson (all previously at Ben Franklin) and Tra’Quan Bradley (reserve last year) joined Gilmer in the starting lineup this season. The Dragons have the top seed in Section II for the Class 1A South Region playoffs.
“We came too far not to win,” said Gilmer, who went 13-of-18 from the floor. “It took every man on the bench, every man on the floor, getting to every loose ball, every sweat and tear to make sure to win this game.”
2015-16 Baltimore City Division III boys’ basketball champions New Era Academy
Baltimore City Division III final
at Coppin State University
New Era Academy 57, Reginald Lewis 47
Reginald Lewis – Adams 13, Dawson 13, Wallace 4, Bydume 1, Holloway 4, Diggs 2, Davis 10. Totals 18 8-18 47.
New Era – Matthews 2, Bradley 2, Spriggs 7, Johnson 15, Gilmer 27, Thomas 4. Totals 24 8-22 57.
Reginald Lewis 14 8 12 13 – 47
New Era 14 21 11 11 – 57
2015-16 Baltimore City Division II boys’ basketball champions Douglass
Sylvester Banks stressed patience when he became Douglass boys’ basketball coach in 2011. The wait paid off as the Ducks denied Ben Franklin a second straight Division II championship.
Senior guard Damontze Davis scored 17 points for Douglass (20-1), and reserve Del-jonte Moore scored seven of his nine points in the final quarter. Anthony Coffey had 11 points and six rebounds for Ben Franklin (15-6).
The Ducks went on an 18-4 run over the final seven minutes to avenge their only loss this season. It’s the first championship for the Gwynns Falls Parkway school since 2004 when it won the Class 3A state crown.
Douglass was among the area’s elite for nearly two decades under Rodney Cofield, who won three state and city crowns before retiring in the spring of 2011. Banks, a former star at Southwestern in the late 1980s, took over.
“I explained to Mrs. Queen [Douglass athletic director Tina Queen] is going to take a while, I’m coming behind a legend,” said Banks, who starred at CCBC-Dundalk (member of CCBC Athletic Hall of Fame) and played for Bowie State. “I said to her three to five years we might be competitive. It takes a while to build it back up.”
“Hard work and believing in each other,” said Davis of his team which won just nine games last season.
Davis, one of 10 seniors, converted a follow, giving Douglass a 38-37 lead with 6:24 left in regulation. Laquanta Atkins finished off a pass from Donnell Ratchford in transition, extending the lead.
After an offensive charge on Ben Franklin, Moore converted a three-point play, putting the Ducks up 44-37 with 4:22 to play. Moore gave Douglass the lead to start the fourth.
“At halftime, Tez came to me and said ‘keep your head in the game, we need you'” said Moore, who added two rebounds in 14 minutes of work. “I got in the game and did what I supposed to do; play good defense and we won.”
Last month in Curtis Day, Douglass dropped a 63-59 decision to Ben Franklin after wiping out a 20-point first half deficit. The rematch Tuesday was a seesaw affair, with the Bayhawks holding a six-point early in the second quarter before the Ducks grabbed the lead at halftime.
The lead exchanged hands six times as Larry Walker’s three-pointer gave Ben Franklin a 37-36 advantage with 6:46 left in regulation. Seconds later, Douglass went back in front on Davis’ basket.
The Ducks, who needed to walk two minutes from its campus to Coppin’s gym, never trailed again.
“Douglass played well, but they’re not 13 points better than us. You got to make free throws and you can’t turn the ball over 24 times,” said Ben Franklin coach William Russell. “They converted 12 points off our turnovers which hurts.”
Tuesday’s championship victory was a huge boost for Douglass, which has had a tumultous last several months. The Ducks will have the top seed in Section I for the Class 3A North Region playoffs.
“I’m happy for our fans, happy for the school, all the way down to the custodians,” said Banks. “Everybody played a part in this.”
Baltimore City Division II final
at Coppin State University
Douglass 54, Benjamin Franklin 41
Benjamin Franklin – Suggs 9, Grier 3, Young 3, Potillo 8, Coffey 11, Braham 4, Walker 3. Totals 15 6-12 41.
Douglass – Davis 17, Ratchford 8, Jones 2, Holloway 9, Daniels 4, Atkins 5, Moore 9. Totals 18 13-16 54.
Benjamin Franklin 13 10 11 7 – 41
Douglass 9 16 9 20 – 54
2015-16 Baltimore City Division I boys’ basketball champions Poly
Inside Poly’s gymnasium, banners hang along the walls, one for each sport and other extracurricular activity with the championship year listed. Only boys’ basketball hang empty.
Not anymore. The Engineers have their elusive first title after a dominating effort.
Junior forward De’Vondre Perry posted 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists for Poly (19-3 overall) and De’shaun Mosley added 15 points and six rebounds. Zephaniah Esguerra finished with 14 points for Dunbar (14-8).
The Cold Spring Lane school led by as many as 26 points, completing the first perfect run in city league Division I play (13-0) since City College in 2013-14. The Knights went 27-0 that season, won the Class 3A state championship and finished consensus No. 1 in the area.
After surviving overtime decisions at Lake Clifton and Edmondson, and overcoming a 12-point fourth quarter deficit at Dunbar over the last two weeks, Poly left little doubt Tuesday, posting the biggest blowout in the city finals since Lake Clifton’s 69-30 annihilation of Digital Harbor in 2009 at Morgan State’s Hill Field House.
“We weren’t expecting something like this [going undefeated], but we always felt last year and throughout the summer, we left so much on the table and we prepared with purpose,” said Engineers coach Sam Brand. “When you got off on that floor, there’s plenty to be nervous about but we’ve really prepared for this moment.”
“We knew we had to go here and do what we do best,” said Perry. “Stay calm and play our game.”
The Engineers methodically squeezed Dunbar with their length with 6-foot-6 Perry, 6-4 Demetrius Mims and Torrin Stephens, and Jordan Jones. Jones, 6-7, was a vacuum in the paint with seven rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Jones, a Charleston Southern recruit, whose improvement over the last couple of seasons have coincided with Engineers rise, said the pieces have fallen into place.
“I’ve seen different teams over the years,” said Jones, “this is the most complete team we’ve had.”
Jones signaled Poly’s dominance in the opening quarter. He swatted away a Dunbar shot in the paint and Christian Chong Qui got the ball to streaking Mosley down court for an easy layup.
Mosley dropped a three-pointer and Chong Qui converted an easy layup, giving Poly a 20-8 first quarter lead. The Engineers led 33-16 at halftime.
Chong Qui, a senior point guard, said Poly was relaxed for arguably its biggest game in program history.
“We played a lot of unselfish basketball, making a lot of extra passes,” said Chong Qui, who had nine points and four assists. “We try to play like the Spurs [NBA San Antonio Spurs], keep the ball moving, don’t hold it for more than a second.”
The Poets, in their first city final since 2013, scratched the lead down to 37-28 after Damonte Moore’s jumper with 1 minute, 57 seconds left in the third quarter. Poly answered with Mosley scoring on a drive to the basket. The Engineers bulked the advantage to 43-29 as Perry scored on a short jumper at the buzzer, following a timeout.
“They came in focused and knew what was on the line,” said Dunbar coach Diego Jones. “We weren’t ready to play. We emphasized the moment, but the kids didn’t take advantage of the opportunity.”
Poly ceased the moment Tuesday. For decades, Poly was outside of the city basketball hierachy.ÂÂ
The Engineers will try to follow the 2008-09 Lake Clifton and 2013-14 City squads, who went on to state titles after a perfect run in the city. Poly hosts Milford Mill Academy Friday evening in a Class 3A North Region Section I first round match.
“We know it’s on to the next challenge, but at the same time, we’re going to take tonight and enjoy this,” said Brand. “I don’t want to stop coaching this group the next couple of weeks, so hopefully we’ll be able to advance.”
Baltimore City Division I final
at Coppin State University
No. 2 Poly 64, No. 11 Dunbar 43
Dunbar – Tazewell 6, Phillip 10, Giles 2, Davenport 6, McNair 3, Esguerra 14, Moore 2. Totals 17 5-16 43.
Poly – Mims 14, Chong Qui 9, Jones 2, Stephens 7, Perry 17, Mosley 15. Totals 23 15-26 64.
Dunbar 8 8 13 14 – 43
Poly 20 13 10 21 – 64