Poly Breaks St. Francis’ Heart

Towson ~ You’re teammates trusting you to hit the biggest shot of the game even though you hadn’t scored all night says a lot. That’s exactly what happened when Justin Lewis drew a double-team and threw a precision pass to Ian Wallace who hopped into it for a dagger 3-pointer over Jordan Toles with just just 15 seconds to go in the game.

“The first option option wasn’t there (and) of the course the plan was to get the ball to the rim,” Wallace said, “They closed in on Justin so I had to be ready to shoot the ball at the arc.”

The final tally being 59-58, Brandon Murray(game-high 22-points), Justin Lewis(16-points), and Rahim Ali(11-points) carried Poly to a thrilling marque victory over St. Francis. The Panthers were led by Rajeir Jones’ team-high 21-points, followed by Jamal West and his 15-points.

“Our program was built around wanting to test ourselves in games like tonight,” Poly head coach Sam Brand said, “St. Francis was one of the first of my AA teams that would play us. We been doing this six years now and its been a big time atmosphere and competitive game every time.”

Playing at SECU Arena and a college court, both Poly and St. Francis acclimated to the size and depth of a college arena and decidedly played some high level basketball. The Engineers and Panthers went back and forth for the entirety of the first half, with Poly grabbing their second lead of the game when Ali finished a layup off a Murray assist to make it 26-25 at the half. The third quarter is when the Panthers flexed their dominance with multiple different defensive looks to get the Engineers fit. It resulted in a 21-11 scoring quarter.

“We got it, it only takes one run,” Ali told his teammates “The game is a game of runs and I knew that ours was google to come. All that matters is we had the last run we was going to win.”

After being down by as many as 11-points late in the third frame, the Engineers methodically climbed their way back into the contest to steal victory. During the decisive fourth quarter the Engineers narrowed the lead down to 52-47 after a Murray dunk. After a quick spurt from from the Panthers to make it 56-50 the Engineers responded with their own 9-2 run. The run was punctuated by back to back three pointers, first from Murray to make it a one-possession game at 56-53. The latter coming from the aforementioned 3-pointer by Wallace. The play was a perfect amalgamation of Brand telling his players they’re all stars earlier in the day and anyone can make the winning play. Tole raced back down the court and drew a foul to get to the line but missed both free throws, and when Amani Walker missed the front end of a one and one, the Panthers again had another chance but couldn’t put down any of their point-blank tip in chances.

“We just knew we had to push” Murray said on the last run, “We all came together, the heart and the soul of the team is through everybody. It’s from one-14 and it’s not even just the starters it’s not (anybody) it’s all of us.”

Video courtesy of Brooks Warren

Baltimore Poly Takes St. John’s Down In Epic Thriller

Washington D.C. ~ Simply heartbreak. That was what Baltimore Polytechnic came in to deliver during their trip to the nations capital. The Engineers were already playing with something to prove, fully aware of the perception that Baltimore players do not stack up to the elite talent that the Washington D.C. metropolitan produces. The Engineers knew that a capturing signature win over a top 50 program like St. John’s College High School would make a very loud statement. The type of statement that can put Baltimore on the map as a hoops hotbed.

“This was for Baltimore,” Poly head coach Sam Brand said, “We heard a lot of talk about how Baltimore teams can’t compete down here and we know that we can. We embraced the opportunity to do so.”

The Engineers prevailed in overtime, 59-58, in the main event of the More Than Basketball St. John’s Invitational. Justin Lewis scored 16-points and grabbed 14 rebounds, while Rahim Ali scored 15-points, dished a pair of assists, and grabbed six rebounds. The Cadets were led by a 20-point performance by Casey Morsell. Jalin Abbott and Ishmael Leggett joined Morsell in double-figures with 14 and 13

points respectively.

” We came in the game with a chip on our shoulder,” Ali said, “They’re a top-50 team in the country and that’s where we want to be.”

Through each bucket exchanged and every bit of trash talk spoken neither the Engineers nor the Cadets allowed themselves to lie down without a fight. That competitiveness and desire to win helped the Cadets erase an 11-point deficit on the strength of a 14-5 run in the third quarter that culminated in a 40-all tie after a Devon Dunn spin layup in transition. After a scoring drought that lasted nearly three minutes, Casey Morsell went on a personal 5-0 run to end the quarter to grab a 44-43 lead heading into the final frame. From there the Cadets would be lead by as much as five before the Engineers took the lead back when Justin Lewis sank a pair of free throws to create a one-point lead in the waning minutes of the game. Jalin Abbott than forced a Poly timeout when he hit a dagger 3-pointer to give his Cadets squad a 54-51 lead. Ali responded when he went the full length of the court and sank a sidestep 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of Morsell to force an extra period.

The overtime period provided some more fireworks from two proud programs. Ian Wallace scorched the nets late with a 3-pointer for a 57-56 lead, seemingly burying the Cadets after Morsell missed on a contested jumper, and John Wilson turned the ball after stepping out of bounds on the baseline. Poly than gave St. John’s after Lewis turned the ball over trying to inbound the ball and inadvertently set up the thrilling final sequence after Morsell scored on a tough layup with the clock dwindling down fast. Ali would coolly go the length of the full-court with untouched before hop-stepping and sinking a reverse layup to win the game.

“I just had to feed off my team,” Ali said, ” I had to know when to go and when to feed my team. I had to feed Justin (because) he was cooking. When they started double-teaming him I knew more was going to be open for me so I just took the shots that were open.

A Very Merry DeMatha Christmas Tournament:

Day 1 of the DeMatha Christmas Tournament has come and gone. The four games slated were played by Baltimore Poly and Granby, Wilson and Rock Creek Christian, host DeMatha and Riverdale Baptist, and finally JL Mann vs Bowie. The Hop only covered Poly vs Granby and Wilson vs Rock Creek Christian. 

Poly vs Granby:

The Baltimore City powerhouse continues to perform on the biggest stages and finish well in the late stages. The Engineers put on a defensive clinic, blocking five shots, collecting eight steals on 13 total turnovers, including forcing a pair of shot-clock violations in both halves. Poly created separation midway through the second quarter when they went on a 10-0 run, making it 27-17 before Jeriah Sweat finished a 3-point play. Granby got to within 34-33 when Sweat hit back-to-back layups in the third quarter but that was close as they would get to grabbing control. The Engineers would finish the fourth quarter with a 13-3 run highlighted by a thunderous Lewis slam to make it 51-42.

Justin Lewis led Poly with 23 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals, and 5 steals in a true stat-sheet stuffing outing. Jayden Epps scored 23 of his own

Wilson vs Rock Creek Christian

The Tigers came into this contest ready to flex their signature electric athleticism out once again at the DeMatha basketball court. The plethora of dunks and sweet shooting from Wilson provided some worthwhile entertainment for the growing crowd on Madison Avenue. The Rock Creek Christian was willing to meet physicality and toughness with Wilson but we’re unable to hang after the first quarter. Simply being overpowered as far as shot-making is the only way to way to describe it. James Gross nearly gave his RCCA teammates a major boost when he attempted to posterized Mahkel Mitchell in transition but the attempt was too strong. 

 Delonnie Hunt was the only true threat with 17 points, but Hunt was battling an ankle injury suffered last week in a game against St. John’s. Mitchell led the Tigers with a game-high 18 points, joined by Jay Heath and brother   Makhi in double digits with 16 and 15 points respectively.