The Joppatowne Mariners lost two times to the Edgewood Rams this season, each time by four points or less, but in Tuesday's Class 2A East District VII Sectional boys basketball final at Joppatowne, the top-seeded Mariners avenged those losses and won when it mattered most, beating the second-seeded Rams, 51-47.
The two teams not disappointed the fans in their previous three matchups this season, and did not stray from the script the two squads have seemingly followed.
"Like I said last time we played Edgewood, in the [UCBAC] title game, every time we face them it's exciting," Joppatowne head coach Jermaine Head Sr. said after the Mariners' victory Tuesday. "I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm glad we had to face them in the regional semifinal, because it keeps us on our toes. You don't want to face a pushover, then have go to the regional final and play a good team."
Before Tuesday's regional playoff game, the Rams topped the Mariners, 59-55, in the UCBAC championships contest on Feb. 20. In the Joppatowne Christmas Classic title game on Dec. 28, Edgewood beat Joppatowne, 61-57, and in a regular-season contest dubbed "The Battle of Route 40" on Dec. 13, the Mariners came through with a 50-47 win.
With the victory, Joppatowne moved on to Friday's 2A East regional title game, which will see the Mariners host District VIII champ Wicomico. That game is slated to start at 6:30 p.m.
Head explained that, having been bested by the Rams three times already, he knew his team had to focus on neutralizing Edgewood's pair of big men, the 6'7" Fortune Okigweh and 6'6" Lolami Charles.
"That was our main focus, to limit their scoring opportunities and keep them off the court," Head said. "I knew that if we could get it to where it was five guards against five guards, that we would have a little advantage. I think Charles and Okigweh had five points combined, so we were successful there."
Markell Huggins led the Mariners in the victory, posting 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, while teammate Matthew Jones had 14 points, six assists and two steals. Joppatowne's Gary Blackston had seven points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Khalil Gore had eight points, two blocks and three steals. Jermaine Head Jr. had three points, five assists and three steals, while Keith Alexander put up three points, 10 rebounds and three steals.
"Where we got killed in the previous games was allowing second shots," Head said. "The same thing happened to Patterson Mill when they played Edgewood in the first round. I actually went to the second-round game, when Edgewood played Fallston, and I saw that Fallston had some success playing a 1-3-1. We used that tonight and it worked for us."
Jaleel Gibson and Lenier Tucker each scored 11 points to lead the Edgewood offense. Roderick Harrison had 10 points in the loss, while teammate Detrick Matthews netted eight. Charles scored five points for the Rams.
The Mariners led the Rams, 28-25, at halftime.
Also Tuesday night, the 11th-seeded Aberdeen Eagles' boys basketball season ended with a 61-39 loss to second-seeded host City College in the Class 3A North regional semifinal round.