No. 4 Poly subdues Dunbar for second Baltimore City boys’ hoops crown in three seasons; Lewis scores 15 (VIDEO HERE!!)

by Derek Toney

Through a challenging non-league schedule and developing roles, Poly High boys’ basketball team has been a work in progress.

If Saturday is an indication, the Engineers are hitting their stride. No. 4 Poly won the Baltimore City Division I championship with a 54-37 decision over fifth-ranked Dunbar in front of an estimated crowd of 3,000 at Morgan State University’s Hill Field House.

Sophomore forward Justin Lewis finished with 15 points for the Engineers (17-6 overall), and Cleveland Horton and sophomore point guard Rahim Ali each added 12. Da’Shawn Phillip posted a game-best 19 points for Dunbar (20-3).

The Cold Spring Lane school led wire-to-wire, claiming its second city title in three seasons. Last year, Poly lost to Patterson on a late basket at Coppin State.

On the Morgan hardwood where he starred and later coached, Engineers coach Sam Brand saw his team put together a solid effort Saturday.

“We take a lot of pride in how hard we work as a group and how capable our guys are,” said Brand, who was an assistant under Todd Bozeman during Morgan’s run to the NCAA (2009) and NIT (2008) postseason before returning to his alma-mater in 2010. “Those guys step up.”

“We got a lot of guys with a lot of heart and talent,” said Mims.

On a night Mims, one of the area’s best seniors who will play for Long Beach State University, had only four points, Poly didn’t miss a beat.

Horton, Ali and senior Seth Jones showed veteran guile while Lewis, 6-foot-8 continue his ascension into the nation’s elite. The Engineers got quality minutes Saturday from Ian Wallace, Kim Brown and Amani Walker.

“We know that we have guys who are high-level players at the next level, but we believe every guy out there has something to contribute to every game,” Brand said. “I think the big difference in the game was that everybody did contribute.”

“We trust in our guys, each and everyone of them,” said Horton.

The Engineers led 23-10 midway in the second quarter after a basket from Lewis. Dunbar couldn’t find a rhythm from the perimeter as the Engineers went long with Lewis, Brown (6-7) and Wallace (6-5).

Trailing 31-16 at halftime, the Poets clawed back. The Orleans Street school got a layup from Jared Lewis to close the third, and Jamal West started the fourth with back-to-back scores – the latter a dunk – to close within 41-36 with 5 minutes, 31 seconds left in regulation.

Brown, a junior, tipped an Ali’s miss. After swiping the ball from Phillip off a rebound, Ali found Horton, who dropped a 3-pointer from the elbow, pushing Poly’s back to double-digits. Jones hit a jumper from just inside the 3-point line, making it 48-36 with 2:23 to play.

“We’ve been in tight games against really good teams and, after awhile, it just becomes the way you’re use to playing,” said Brand. “Kim’s putback, Cleveland’s 3 and Seth’s jumper – three shots by three guys you’re not worried about. On championship teams, guys like that makes those type of plays.”

After watching Poly rallied for victory last week on its home court, Dunbar played from behind Saturday. It was the Poets’ third loss in four games following a 19-0 start.

“We didn’t do anything we talked about, offensively or defensively,” said Dunbar coach Diego Jones. “We dug a deep hole for ourselves.”

Two years ago, Poly defeated the Poets for the city title, accomplishing something some city basketball followers thought wasn’t possible. The next game, Poly, in its first match as VSN’s No. 1 team, was upset by Woodlawn in the 3A North Region quarterfinals.

“I’m very proud of our first city championship, but it was the hardest end to a season I’ve ever had,” said Brand, whose team won the 3A state title last season. “I put these guys on point, we’ll be ready for states.”

Baltimore City Division I boys’ basketball championship

at Morgan State University

No. 4 Poly 54, No. 5 Dunbar 37

Poly – Mims 4, Ali 12, Jones 5, Horton 12, Lewis 15, Brown 4, Wallace 2. Totals 20 10-17 54.

Dunbar – Phillip 19, West Jr. 8, McCormick 8, Lewis 2. Totals 16 3-8 37.

Poly 15 16 10 13 – 54

Dunbar 8 8 16 5 – 37