As the crowd dissipated off Edmondson High’s court after its victory over No. 3 Dunbar early Tuesday evening, Red Storm coach Darnell Dantzler stood near midcourt. The collar on his blue dress shirt was soaked with sweat.
Edmondson gave its coach some tense moments in the final stages, but the defending Baltimore City boys’ basketball champs emerged with a 70-66 decision over the previously unbeaten Poets in a key Division I match in west Baltimore.
Senior guard Rodney Pratcher scored a game-high 22 points for the Red Storm (13-1 overall, 5-0 Division I), and Kavon Pyatt added 18. Iakeem Alston led Dunbar (13-1, 4-1 Division I) with 19 points, and Evan Singletary finished with 17.
No. 6 Edmondson used a third quarter run to gain the lead for good then came up with just enough plays to end Dunbar’s 22-game winning streak dating back to last season. The Red Storm relished the rare victory over the iconic east Baltimore program.
“Everybody in the city said we haven’t played anybody,” said Rodney Pratcher. “We just proved something by beating Dunbar.”
“We haven’t beaten them in four years,” said Pyatt, a senior swingman. “It was personal.”
It’s the Red Storm’s first victory over Dunbar since March 2000 when Edmondson, then-coached by the legendary Pete Pompey, upset the Poets in the Class 2A North Region championship game in east Baltimore. It marked Edmondson’s only state Final Four berth.
Pyatt put the Red Storm on the verge, slamming home a miss by Brian Ellison for a 68-63 lead with 45 seconds remaining in regulation. Devon Graham’s free throw with four seconds to play put the game out of reach.
It was the veterans Pyatt and Pratcher along with sophomore Darius Walker in the backcourt that was the difference Tuesday. Dantzler said Walker, usually a reserve, got the starting nod Tuesday to help contend with Dunbar’s long and active guards.
“I told them I need them to lead us to victory,” said Dantzler. “They played well, they hit their foul shots down the stretch and pulled it out.”
Edmondson went on a 7-0 run in the third quarter with scores from Pyatt, Walker and Pratcher to grab a 51-44 advantage. The Poets got to back to within 57-55 after a three-point by Alston midway in the fourth, but Pratcher scored on a drive and converted two free throws for a six-point lead.
Clinging to a 66-63 advantage, Edmondson came up with a loose ball and Ellison missed on a drive to the basket. Pyatt was there, however, to slam the ball through, sending the Red Storm faithful into a frenzy. Walker (10 points and seven rebounds) intercepted a Dunbar pass on the other end.
“We rushed a couple of shots. I kept telling them stop trying to knock them out and be patient,” said Dantzler, a Dunbar alum who served as interim coach in the 2006-07 season. “We wanted to turn it into a free throw shooting contest.”
While the Red Storm kept door of opportunity open for Dunbar, the Poets stumbled at the altar with errant passing and poor execution in the final minutes. Dunbar coach Diego Jones was disappointed with his team’s defensive effort.
“We didn’t have that disciplined and they took advantage of it,” said Jones, whose team gave up a season-high in points. “Today, we had to make plays down the stretch, we weren’t used to that. Hopefully, it will help us down the road.”
The proverbial road will be a street block for the defending Class 1A state champs who come back Wednesday evening with another key Division I match against No. 1 Patterson at Morgan State University. The Red Storm gets another opportunity against another reigning state champ, No. 8 City College on The Alameda, Friday afternoon.
While Friday’s contest has huge implications in the Division I title game chase (top two teams in final division standings will play for championship Feb. 22 at Morgan), seeding in the tough 2A North Region will also be at stake. Last winter, the Knights edged Edmondson on their home court for the region crown en route to their second straight 2A state championship.
“I know their record isn’t up to par but they’ve played a tough schedule,” said Dantzler. “We still know the state championship goes through City.”
“We have to prove we can beat City. We’re trying to prove we’re here for real,” said Pratcher. “This is our year.”
CLICK RELATED VIDEOS TAB FOR HIGHLIGHTS
|No. 6 Edmondson 70, No. 3 Dunbar 66|
|Dunbar: Singletary 17, Alston 19, Wallace 12, Pretlow 8, Parham 10. Totals: 28 6-9 66.|
|Edmondson: Raynair Pratcher 8, Rodney Pratcher 22, Pyatt 18, Walker 10, Bradley 4, Graham 8. Totals: 24 17-22 70.|
|Halftime: Dunbar 40, Edmondson 38|