No. 2 Poly shoots past Lake Clifton; Lewis and Walker post double-doubles (VIDEO HERE!)

Poly’s Justin Lewis slams home two points during Monday’s Baltimore City non-dvisional contest with Lake Clifton. Lewis finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds as the second-ranked Engineers posted a 76-55 victory in east Baltimore.

by Derek Toney

There’s changes in the Baltimore City boys’ basketball league this season, but one thing is certain: Poly is the team to beat.

The No. 2 Engineers defeated eighth-ranked Lake Clifton, 76-55, in east Baltimore. Junior forward Justin Lewis posted 22 points and 14 rebounds and Rahim Ali added 17 for Poly (3-2 overall).

In arguably its best performance of the young season, the Cold Spring Lane school effectively worked the inside-out game, avenging its only loss last season in Division I play. The Engineers went on to the city Division I title for the second time in three seasons.

The city league, previously two divisions (I & II) with the top two teams in each division vying for the respective division championship, is still two divisions (A & B). But now, the top team in the A and B division will meet for the city title in February.

Poly coach Sam Brand was pleased to see his team respond in a tough early season city league battle.

“We stayed on course when they made their runs and things happened beyond our control,” said Brand. “They got a couple of guys who are going to score no matter how you play them, and I thought we did a good job of defending them.”

The Engineers came up with defensive stops to quell several Lake runs. Poly got a huge defensive effort on the glass from junior center Amani Walker, who finished with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.

A defensive clog last season, Walker, who transferred from McDonogh School after his freshman year, is emerging as an offensive option.

“All the coaches talk to me about staying active, moving because Justin and Ra (Rakim Ali) are going to get a lot of attention,” said Walker. “Just filling in the open spots and do the dirty work.”

After Lake shaved a 14-point halftime deficit to 36-27 early in the third, Walker converted a free throw and finished a pass from Lewis, pushing Poly’s lead back to double digits.

Later in the quarter, Walker finished a nifty cross court pass from Ali with a transition dunk and was fouled. Walker completed the 3-point play, extending the Engineers’ margin to 47-29.

“We played great team defense but when you have a 6-8 guy that’s guarding on the perimeter, rebounding, blocking shots, it really changes your defense,” said Brand of Walker. “Justin is committed to playing defense and Ra-Ra is a hound on the ball.”

Poly overwhelmed the Lakers (5-1) inside in the second half with Walker and Lewis. The perimeter game helped the Engineers  ceased a 13-point advantage early as junior forward Ian Wallace drained three 3-pointers.

Poly finished with 10 trifectas Monday including a dagger at the third quarter buzzer from Ali, giving the Engineers a 50-39 advantage.

“We came in here as the underdogs and we played hard,” said Ali, who had eight assists and six rebounds Monday following his heroics in Poly’s 59-58 overtime victory at St. John’s College (DC) Saturday evening. “Everybody was on the same point.”

The Lakers got a game-high 26 points from senior guard Armon Harried and junior Michael Gray finished with 13. Lake Clifton got close a couple of times in the second half, but wasn’t able to overcome Poly’s interior and shooting depth.

“We made pushes and had a chance to a make turn but didn’t capitalized,” said Lakers coach Herman Harried. “They got size especially on the wing and it causes mismatches and they can shoot.”

Ian Wallace (left) and Amani Walker were huge for Poly Monday. Walker finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds while Wallace added 13 points including three 3-pointers as the Engineers won their third straight.

Brand expects Poly to be even stronger with junior forward Brandon Murray, a Boys’ Latin School transfer, set to debut Friday against Baltimore Catholic League title contender St. Maria Goretti. The two-time defending Class 3A state champ Engineers hope to become the first back-to-back city champs since Dunbar in 2012 and 2013.

“We’ll see how good we can be,” said Ali.

No. 2 Poly 76 No. 8 Lake Clifton 55

Poly -, Lewis 22, Ali 17, Wallace 13, Walker 10, , English 6, Lindsay 6, Bethea 2. Totals: 27 12-23 76.

Lake Clifton – Harried 26, Gray 13,  Harris 8, Hughes 4, Tiggle 4. Totals: 17 19-28 55

Poly 19 15 16 26 – 76

Lake Clifton 9 11 19 16 – 55