No. 1 Poly drops Lake Clifton in early season City league boys hoops showdown; Lewis nets 17 points and 23 rebounds (VIDEO HERE!)

Poly’s Justin Lewis is airborne as he tries to stop Lake Clifton’s Jalen Morris’ shot during the first half of Monday’s Baltimore City boys basketball contest. Lewis finished with 17 points, 23 rebounds and six blocked shots as the top-ranked Engineers improved to 4-0 with a 79-52 decision over the No. 3 Lakers inside Augie Waibel Gym in North Baltimore. (photo – Jimmy Fields Sr.)

by Derek Toney

In its first few games, Poly High boys basketball team has gotten off to slow starts. It was no different Monday against Lake Clifton.

Neither was the ending. The top-ranked Engineers remained undefeated with a 79-52 victory over the No. 3 Lakers in a Baltimore City match in North Baltimore.

Marquette University-bound forward Justin Lewis had 17 points, 23 rebounds and five assists for the Engineers (4-0 overall), and Bryce Lindsay added 15. Senior guard Michael Gray led Lake Clifton (2-1) with a game-high 21 points.

The Cold Spring Lane school used its size and defensive pressure to pull away in its first major area challenge. The senior backcourt tandem of Brandon Murray and Rahim Ali finished with 14 and 13 points, respectively.

“We started kind of slow, but as the game went on, we started finding ourselves,” said Lewis, 6-foot-7.

“We didn’t handle the beginning very well and it almost became a positive experience for us,” said Brand.

Poly never trailed after a 12-0 first half surge, turning a 9-5 deficit into a 17-9 advantage. The Engineers advanced the lead into double-digits with a fast second half start.

Brand thought his squad was “caught up” in front of a nearly packed Augie Waibel Gym. There was about hundred spectators outside, unable to get in to see the first huge match of the city league season.

“We took some poor shots, shots without penetration,” said Brand. “Then our maturity started showing.”

Lindsay, getting his first start, hit the first of his five three-pointers to start the 12-0 run. Lewis and 6-foot-9 reserve Adam Walden added dunks.

Leading 26-17 at halftime, Poly intensified on the defensive end to create transition scores. Trae Lindsay converted a steal into a layup and freshman Kwame Evans Jr. got a loose ball and finished with a slam, putting the Engineers up, 36-21, midway in the third.

“It was a tough start, but we’re not new to this, we’re used to coming through adversity,” said Ali. “We had to get the jitters out.”

Lake Clifton coach Herman Harried said Poly’s size and his team poor shooting was a bad recipe.

“We didn’t shoot well and they shot very well…they scored off our poor possessions,” said Harried. “Luckily it’s only our third game of the season and we will be alright.”

Brand said Poly is “where we want to be,” through the first two weeks. The Engineers next play at the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach after Christmas.

No Baltimore team has won the Beach Ball, one of the nation’s preeminent holiday showcases, since the iconic 1991-92 Dunbar national championship squad.

“We don’t take it lightly being the area’s No. 1 team,” said Brand, whose team plays California’s Harvard Westlake in the Beach Ball Classic opening round Dec. 27. “To represent our area is something we take a lot of pride in.”

No. 1 Poly 79, No. 3 Lake Clifton 52 

Lake Clifton – Blackwell 10, Gray 21, Hodges 3, Morris 11, Spruill 4, Carter 3. Totals 18 13-18 52.

Poly – English 5, Lindsay 15, Wallace 5, Lewis 17, Ali 13, Evans 8, Walden 2, Murray 14. Totals 28 15-20 79.

Lake Clifton 9 8 20 15 – 52

Poly 8 18 25 28 – 79