CLASS 3A NORTH REGION BOYS’ BASKETBALL CHAMPIONS
Poly High boys’ basketball team understood the risks of playing a tough non-league schedule, mainly having to go on the road in the state region playoffs. A year ago, the Engineers had their breakthrough season end with a stunning early round loss on the road.
In the Class 3A North title match at Dundalk Saturday evening, Poly left no doubt the risk was worth it. The No. 4 Engineers rolled past the 20th-ranked Owls, 68-36, and into the state final four.
Demetrius Mims scored 22 points for Poly (19-7 overall), and seniors DeVondre Perry and Torin Stephens added 13 and 11 points, respectively. Nick Parrish finished with 14 points for Dundalk (19-6).
Starting with Perry’s opening alley-oop slam, the Baltimore City school overwhelmed the region top-seed Owls, claiming its second region championship. The Engineers will play Worcester County’s Stephen Decatur in a state 3A semifinal Thursday at 3 p.m. at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center.
Poly heads to College Park with nearly as many losses as the rest of the 3A final four field – Potomac (6), Seneca Valley (1) and Stephen Decatur (1) – combined. The Cold Spring Lane school’s non-league losses include Chicago public champ Simeon (then-ranked No. 7 nationally by USA Today), Philadelphia’s Imohtep Charter School (currently No. 6 by USA Today), MIAA A Conference champ and VSN’s No. 3 Mount St. Joseph and area’s consensus No. 1 Perry Hall.
“Our goal is to compete nationally and we can’t do that unless we play national competition,” said Engineers coach Sam Brand, whose team played New York’s Bishop Loughlin and Florida’s Sagemont at the Slam Dunk to the Beack in Delaware during the Christmas holiday. “We’re not going to comprise it for lack of seeding. Those games early in the year, the guys competing at that level prepared them to come here with confidence and do what they did.”
“It helped us,” said Stephens of the non-league slate. “We learned our lesson.”
The Engineers, who routed Woodlawn on their home court Thursday, gave Dundalk a dissertion in front of a standing room only audience in the Owls’ gym Saturday. They led 19-7 after the first quarter and 40-15 at halftime, constantly defensively harrassing the Owls.
“We came out strong on the defensive end, and got a lot of fast break and transition points,” said Mims, a 6-foot-5 junior. “That’s what we like to do.”
Perry, who got things rolling with the alley-oop dunk and a fadeaway jumper, picked up two fouls and sat the remainder of the first half. Mims took over, scoring 13 straight points, leaving Poly with a commanding 30-9 advantage midway in the second.
The Engineers had a 36-point lead, 53-17, after Stephens (11 points), Poly’s unheralded performer the last couple of seasons, scored. It was 62-25 early in the fourth after Perry dropped a 3-pointer.
Brand didn’t want his team to lose its edge, drawing on the loss to second-ranked Patterson in the Baltimore City Division I title game last month.
“I told them to pay attention to every seconds of those 16 minutes, and execute. Be who we’re supposed to be,” said Brand, whose team was denied a second straight city title. “The guys did that for the most part.”
It was a long 32 minutes Saturday for Dundalk, in its first state Elite Eight match. The Owls, who ended C. Milton Wright’s reign as state champs in Tuesday’s region quarterfinals, went more than 10 minutes without field goal in the first half.
Dundalk coach Steve Oppenheim summed up the evening.
“They punched us in mouth, they punched us a second time and a third and a fourth. We had no answer,” said Oppenheim, who started three underclassmen Saturday. “They were faster than us, they rebounded beter. Everything we expected they did, but we didn’t execute.”
The Engineers are off to College Park, where they will try to capture their first state title. Poly reached the 4A state final four in 2013, losing to Montgomery County’s Magruder.
“We were still surprising people, winning games. The difference now this is a more established team and program,” said Brand, a Poly graduate who returned to his alma-mater after playing and coaching at Morgan State. “You don’t take anything granted when you get to the final four. It’s an unbelievable thing for your program.”
Class 3A North Region championship
No. 4 Poly 68, No. 20 Dundalk 36
Poly – Perry 13, Horton 7, Mims 22, Walker 4, Godinez 1, Ali 7, Stephens 11, Brown 2, Weaver 1. Totals 19 26-39 68.
Dundalk – Parrish 14, Cook 7, Johnson 3, Fedd 1, Gramman 4, Reeves 2, Brown 2, Burby 2, Barley 1. Totals 10 15-25 36.
Poly 19 21 17 11 – 68
Dundalk 7 8 4 17 – 36