The Edmondson boys basketball team knew exactly what it was in for going into Friday's Class 1A South region championship against Baltimore City rival Lake Clifton.
Coach Darnell Dantzler told his No. 11 Red Storm that, to win, it would take maximum effort from every player.
For senior guard Chaz Lassiter, that effort was shown in a 16-point performance, including 6-for-6 work at the free throw line in the fourth quarter. For junior forward Kani Coles, it was controlling the boards and scoring a couple big baskets when they were hard to come by down the stretch.
Other teammates also did their share, mostly with strong defense when it mattered most. When it was finished, Edmondson had a resourceful 55-49 home win over the No. 4 Lakers.
"We battled through adversity the whole game, and then it came down to free throws and defense," Lassiter said.
The Red Storm, which claimed the Class 2A state championship last season, improved to 18-5 and will return to Maryland's Comcast Center to play in next week's state semifinal round. Edmondson will play the winner of Saturday's North region title game between No. 6 New Town and Central at 3 p.m.
After falling to Lake Clifton, 43-42, in overtime on Jan. 28, the Red Storm expected a tightly-contested game and got it. This time, they made the important baskets, played tough defense and hit free throws at the end.
Trailing 44-40 midway through the fourth quarter, Edmondson made its run — two baskets from Coles (12 points) the key — and gained a 48-46 advantage before Lassiter stepped to the line for two throws. He made both to push the lead to four points, and the Red Storm went on to make five of eight free throws from there to secure the region title.
"I just didn't want to let my team down, and I wanted to help us get to Comcast," Lassiter said.
The Lakers, who finished with a 21-4 record, got a fine 20-point performance from senior guard Stephon Brown.
Lake Clifton led for the entire third quarter and went up 38-33 when Joshua Parks (13 points) hit a jumper at the free throw line with 6:33 to play.
But the Red Storm answered with 7-1 run to take its first lead of the second half, 40-39, with 5:23 to play. The Lakers scored the next five points — Elijah Kess (10 points) converting a three-point play in the run — to go up 44-40 with 4:39 to play, but they would only make one more shot from the field the rest of the game.
Listed among "others considered" in The Baltimore Sun's preseason Top 15 poll, the Lakers climbed the rankings all season and earned a berth in the Baltimore City Division 1 championship game last month, in which they lost to No. 1 City.
"We just couldn't make the extra plays [on Friday]," Lake Clifton coach Herman "Tree" Harried said. "Some people that did things for us down the stretch [in games] couldn't do them today."
Class 1A South region final
11 Edmondson 55, 4 Lake Clifton 49
LC – Brown 20, Kess 10, Parks 13, Green 4, Wright 2. Toals: 15 15-23 49.
E – Lassiter 16, Burke 12, Wattie 10, Coles 12, Lloyd Garrett 1. Totals: 15 20-31 55.
Half: LC, 26-22Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun