Rodney Pratcher has been at the center of Edmondson High’s boys’ basketball team’s rise to prominence the last several seasons. Not flashy, Pratcher has an old school toughness that exemplifies the Red Storm.
When City College took the lead late in regulation of Wednesday’s Class 2A North Region semifinal, Pratcher willed his squad, and Edmondson is again on the verge of the state Final Four. The No. 7 Red Storm ended eighth-ranked City’s reign as state champions with a 48-45 decision at Morgan State University’s Hill Field House.
Pratcher led Edmondson (16-3 overall) with 15 points, and senior Kavon Pyatt added 12. Senior guard Michael Cheatham scored 12 points for City (15-9), and University of Maryland-bound shooting guard Nick Faust finished with 10.
For the second straight season, the west Baltimore school is back in the 2A Elite Eight. Friday, the top-seeded Red Storm will take on No. 6 seed Digital Harbor for a berth in next weekend’s state semifinals at Comcast Center.
Edmondson cleared its biggest mental hurdle Wednesday, avenging losses at the hands of the Knights the past two postseasons. Though the Red Storm wasn’t overwhelmed with having to play their rivals on a neutral court, they were able to capture their biggest triumph since knocking off Lake Clifton on Morgan’s court for the Baltimore City title last season.
“It’s a big win for our program, it’s a statement win. We haven’t beaten City in three or four years,” said Edmondson coach Darnell Dantzler. “They were the defending state champions, and we knew everything had to go through them. It was tough down the stretch with the foul line shots we missed but they stepped up.”
“It was really intense,” said Pratcher. “We just played hard, played through a little bit of adversity and came out on top.”
The Red Storm held a 41-36 advantage with 3 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in regulation, but City scored seven straight points capped by a basket by Eric Greer to claim the lead with 1:26 to play. It lasted just seven seconds.
Pyatt took the ensuing inbounds and quickly gave to the ball to Pratcher. The senior guard, who missed the front end of a one-and-one that opened the door to City’s comeback, streaked down the court into the lane and converted an underhanded scoop shot and drew the fifth and final foul on Knights’ post Rashawn Rasheed. He converted the free throw for the three-point play for a 44-43 advantage.
“They kept denying me the ball, so when I got it, I wanted to make something happen,” said Pratcher. “We needed the momentum back.”
Pratcher followed a free throw by Michael Bradley with two of his own from the charity stripe, extending the lead to 47-43 with 39.4 seconds remaining. Faust made it 47-45 with a layup with 12.5 seconds left and the Knights fouled Edmondson sophomore Darius Walker with 8.4 seconds.
He made the first, but missed the second. Eric Greer got the rebound for City and gave off to Faust, who dribble weaved his way past half court before Pyatt stepped into his path and was called for a foul with 0.1 seconds left. Pyatt said the Red Storm’s veteran experience help push them over.
“We’ve been doing this for four years so we know how each other play,” said Pyatt. “We’ve been in situations like this before. We made the plays down the stretch and pulled it out.”
After losing to the Knights in the regular season eliminating it from the city Division I title game, Edmondson jumped on The Alameda school in the first half Wednesday, leading 23-9 midway. The Knights worked their back into contention at 30-27 midway in the third before a follow by Bradley and dunk by Pyatt pushed the Red Storm to a seven-point advantage.
The Knights upped their defensive pursuit in the fourth and a tenacious effort on the offensive glass following Pratcher’s missed one-and-one led to two free throws by Rasheed, making it 41-38. Devon Graham another front end one-and-one opportunity for Edmondson, and Rasheed converted a three-point play, tying the game at 41. Greer followed up with a steal, eventually getting the ball back from Lionel Greene for City’s first lead since the opening quarter.
With the Red Storm’s season teetering, Pratcher refused to let them fall.
“That’s been him all season,” said Dantzler. “This year, he has to be more of a point guard, a facilitator. When the game is on the line, I’m going to put the ball in his hands. I trust he’s going to make the right decision.”
“I knew we were going to win. I knew we would play through the adversity,” said Pratcher. “We were down two but we got the players who can make plays.”
After battling back to claim the lead, City missed several quality attempts inside the paint in the closing seconds. It was indicative of a season for the Knights, who showed flashes of why it was ranked No. 1 in the preseason, but were mostly inconsistent.
“You got to make plays and we didn’t,” said City coach Mike Daniel. “They [Edmondson] outhustled us. They know who to get to the ball and they never say die.”
The Red Storm lives for another game Friday against Digital Harbor, which eliminated Randallstown Wednesday evening. Edmondson dominated the Rams in the second half for an 83-66 decision in Federal Hill back in December.
“Last year, we were fortunate to win the city championship but this year, we’ve set our goals much higher,” said Dantzler. “We all know it’s good to win a city championship, but it’s even better to win a state championship. The kids are focus, they’ve been listening and they want to have the experience of playing at Comcast. We’re a little school over in west Baltimore trying to get it done.”