Loch Raven pushes past Coppin Academy for Carver Vo-Tech holiday tournament crown; Cortez Johnson scores 17 (VIDEO HERE!)
by Derek Toney
After a landmark victory Friday, Loch Raven High boys basketball coach Brandon Thomas was concerned about a letdown Saturday against Coppin Academy at the Carver Vo-Tech Christmas Holiday Classic. The Raiders were sloppy in spots, but when Coppin Academy pushed, they pushed harder.
Loch Raven defeated Coppin Academy, 59-56, for the Red bracket title at the Baltimore City event. Sophomore post Cortez Johnson scored 17 points for the Raiders, and Coron Smith added 14.
The Baltimore County school went on a closing 16-7 run to move to 7-0 on the season. Friday, Loch Raven knocked off defending Class 2A state champ and 11th-ranked Patterson, 70-66, in the opening round.
“The kids were very up for Patterson and came out a little flat today,” said Thomas. “We know Coppin Academy is well coached and have watched the program grow the last couple of years….It was another game, another challenge and it was important that we responded.”
“We just kept fighting, stayed together as a team,” said Cortez Johnson. “We came together as one and won.”
Trailing 49-43 with six minutes, 10 seconds left in regulation, Loch Raven scored nine of the next 11 points, capped with Christian Johnson’s three-pointer for a 52-51 advantage with 4:06 left. After a Coppin miss, Christian Johnson found a cutting Jared Luma for a layup, pushing the Raiders’ lead to 54-51.
Cortez Johnson made it 55-51 with a free throw, following a block on the defensive end. After Coppin Academy (6-3) pulled to 55-53, the 6-foot-6 Johnson got a lob from Caron Smith and finished off the glass.
“We’ve been trusting each other when it comes down to it,” said Christian Johnson, a senior transfer from Towson who finished with six points.
Powell hit a short jumper, following a Coppin score, putting Loch Raven up 59-55 with a minute left in regulation. Up 59-56, the Raiders weathered a couple of Coppin misses in the final seconds to remain unbeaten heading into the new year.
The Towson school went 10-10 last season under Thomas, who spent the prior three seasons as Reginald Lewis’ junior varsity coach.
“Year one allowed us to instill culture…The kids believing in what we’re trying to do,” said Thomas, a 2000 graduate of Northern, which is now Reginald Lewis. “Not so much X and O’s, but the mentality we’re trying to play with.”
“We didn’t know we were going to be this good,” said Cortez Johnson. “We just come out and play hard every night.”
Thomas said he has a deep rotation because “every kid brings something special to the table.” Nine players returned from last season’s roster.
At 7-0, Loch Raven knows it will be getting more attention from opponents, and around school.
“It’s only seven games, we’re not even halfway through the season and it’s a long season,” said Thomas. “It’s about blocking out the outside noise and taking care of business inside. We know Loch Raven has been historically bad in basketball, so it’s job to change that around.”
Carver Vo-Tech Christmas Holiday Classic
Red bracket championship
Loch Raven 59, Coppin Academy 56
Coppin Academy – Jenkins 15, Fliggins 10, Mooney 9, Gordon 18, Carter 4. Totals 21 12-16 56.
Loch Raven – Powell 10, Smith 14, Cortez Johnson 17, Christian Johnson 6, Gaines 6, Abdulaleem 2, Luma 4. Totals 20 13-25 59
Coppin Academy 11 17 18 10 – 56
Loch Raven 13 15 15 16 – 59