A little over a week after clinching their first Chesapeake (upper) Division boys basketball title, the Edgewood Rams (18-3) notched another program first, beating the Susquehanna (lower) Division champ Patterson Mill, 55-41, on Wednesday night at the UCBAC championship game to earn a conference crown.
For the Huskies (18-3), the loss marked their first defeat at the hands of a conference opponent during the 2011-12 campaign. Their two previous losses came to Digital Harbor and Owings Mills at the Basketball Academy tournament on Jan. 25 and Jan. 26, respectively. The victory was Edgewood's seventh straight.
Wednesday's conference final was physical from the opening whistle, with both teams aggressively contesting loose balls and missed shots.
"We were prepared for a tough game," Edgewood head coach Austin Hill said. "I think the preparation all week long in practice showed for us tonight. I told them this is going to be a physical one, and that we need to take Patterson Mill out of their game, and make them play ours. We limited them to 14 first-half points, took them out of their game, and that's what we needed to do to be successful."
With the contest tied at 9 in the dying seconds of the first quarter, Edgewood's Henry Van Rolle knocked down a three-pointer to put the Rams up 12-9, but there to answer was Patterson Mill's Garett Burkhead, who swished his own shot from beyond the three-point line to knot things at 12 heading into the second quarter.
It was the second quarter where the Rams began to pull away, outscoring the Huskies 12-2 to take a 24-14 lead into the locker room at halftime. Roderick Harrison and Van Rolle opened the quarter with back-to-back three point shots, and a two-point field goal by the Huskies' Jay Kuhn was followed with six unanswered tallies from Edgewood.
Up 27-18 halfway through the third quarter, the Rams extended their lead to 16 with a seven-point run, as Van Rolle knocked down a pair of field goals, and Detrick Matthews popped a three-pointer. By the end of the frame, the Rams were up, 36-22.
Patterson Mill managed to cut the lead down to nine with 90 seconds left in the game, but Edgewood's Thomas Dillard helped keep the Susquehanna team from getting any closer by going four for four from the charity stripe when the Huskies began fouling to save time. After a layup from the Huskies' Khalid Smith made it a 50-41 game with just over 20 seconds left on the clock, Edgewood's Lenier Tucker converted a field goal, and Van Rolle wrapped things up with a three-point play, hitting a layup while being fouled, then nailing his free-throw to make it 55-41.
"After two long years, we're finally here," Hill, who took over the Edgewood program in 2010, said after the Rams were awarded their first-place plaques. "I've got a group of guys who are willing to do anything and everything for me on any given night. From when we started tryouts in November, there was only one goal for us, to win the conference this year. I think this says, 'we're here,' to the rest of the conference. Edgewood is a name to be reckoned with again, and we're looking for some positive things to come in the very near future."