Edmondson boys basketball coach Darnell Dantzler was caught in the moment Thursday night at Randallstown, emotionally accepting one hug after the next while his players were in the background loudly celebrating.
In the past four years, the Red Storm had successful seasons come to an end in the region championship game with each opponent going on to win the state championship.
But this time, it was Edmondson's turn.
This time, it was seniors Darius Walker and Isaiah Tripp and Darius Hubbard and Myrek Lee-Fowlkes making big plays, hitting important shots and making clutch free throws at the end to lead the No. 5 Red Storm to a 73-63 win over Randallstown to claim the Class 2A North region championship.
Edmondson (21-5) advances to the state semifinals which will be Friday at Comcast Center in College Park. An opponent and game time have yet to be determined. It's the program's second state tournament appearance with the first coming in 2000.
"It's one of the best feelings in the world," said Dantzler, who is in his sixth season. "I'm so proud of my kids. Randallstown is a tough team. We've played all year and to come out and win this means the world to me."
It didn't come easy with the Rams (19-6) showing much the same want to reach the state tournament.
The Red Storm led 37-36 early in the third quarter when it was finally able to get significant separation. Hubbard hit a 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 41 seconds left in the third quarter to start an 18-3 run that ended on a three-point play from Lee-Fowlkes for a 55-39 lead.
The Red Storm, which twice lost late leads against Dunbar and also Milford Mill during the season, wasn't about to let this one slip away with Tripp (team-high 19 points) hitting all eight of his free throws in the fourth quarter to help seal the win. Hubbard finished with 16 points, Fowlkes had 14 and Walker chipped in with 12.
"This feeling is great," Tripp said. "This is my third time playing in this game and we could never get over that hump. But this game, we knew nothing would bring us down. I had God with me, I prayed for this one, my team prayed for it and we knew we were going to win this one."
Senior Ahmaad Wilson led Randallstown with 19 points, while Devin Smith scored 13. The Rams lost Tommy Heard to a knee injury when he landed awkwardly following a first quarter dunk.
Class 2A North
5 Edmondson 73, Randallstown 63
E – Tripp 19, Walker 12, Hubbard 16, Fowlkes 14, Coles 8, Smith 2, Burke 2. Totals: 23 23-32 73.
R – Wilson 19, Cooke 5, Smith 13, Heard 5, Varner 10, Robinson 2, Manning 7. Totals: 25 9-17 63.
Half: E, 37-30Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun