The Poly boys basketball team continued its season-long roll in Baltimore City Division 1 play Wednesday, but the visiting City Knights didn't make things easy.
The No. 4 Engineers needed a 25-point, 11-rebound performance from junior forward De'Vondre Perry, grinding fourth-quarter defense and good aim from the foul line in the final minutes to close out a 62-53 win over the No. 10 Knights.
Poly, which has never made an appearance in the Baltimore City championship game, got closer to reaching the goal, now 12-3 overall and 6-0 in league play. City, which got 27 points from senior Lamarr Mitchell, falls to 11-4 and 5-2 in the city.
The Engineers comfortably handled City, 60-37, in the league opener on Dec. 15, but found things much more difficult on their home court Wednesday. Leading 42-41 going into the fourth quarter, they limited the Knights to just one field goal and did enough on their offensive end to pull away. Perry scored 11 in the final quarter and hit four straight free throws in the final 36 seconds to seal the win.
"There was a lot of calls that slowed the game up, so we just had to keep our composure and hustle," Perry said.
Midway through the second quarter, it looked like the Engineers were primed to enjoy another comfortable win. Already up 17-12 after one, they were sharing the basketball, rebounding well, getting out in transition and making shots to increase the advantage to 28-16 with 4:21 to play. But the Knights regrouped and made the most of the final minutes of the second quarter to make it a game. DaJuan Johnson and Mitchell both had 3-pointers and when Mitchell made a basket in the final seconds, the Engineers' halftime lead was only 30-29.
The Knights would take two one-point leads early in the third quarter before Poly went on an 8-0 run — capped by Christian Chong-Qui scoring in transition for a 40-33 lead with 2:02 left in the third quarter.
Despite its struggles from the field, City was able to keep the game close throughout the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 54-50 when Mitchell finished a left-handed layup with 2:58 to play. But Poly answered with two free throws and a follow basket from Deshaun Mosley (17 points) before Perry's free throws closed out the win.
The fourth quarter was bogged down by foul calls with emotions running high. In all, the teams combined for 23 free-throw attempts in the quarter.
"I'm real happy we came away with the win. That was a game full of emotional ups and downs. Anytime we play City we're ready to give it our all and we know they'll be ready to do the same," Poly coach Sam Brand said.
The Knights, who had won five straight in the league prior to Wednesday, showed they gained some ground on Poly.
"The kids fought hard. I was definitely pleased with our effort," City coach Daryl Wade said. "I just thought we made some mistakes that we could have avoided to help us get through it."