Poly boys basketball entered the 2016-17 campaign as a program without a state championship and one regional title in 2013.
Three years later, its the latest Maryland public school program to rewrite the history books.
With juniors Brandon Murray (17 points) and Rahim Ali (16 points) leading the charge, the Engineers drubbed Reservoir, 69-41, at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center on Saturday afternoon, becoming the first program to win three consecutive Class 3A state championships.
“I think we’re different,” coach Sam Brand said. “I told these guys in the pregame speech, which I get really excited to give, that we’re different, and we’ve established ourselves from the beginning of our program — even when we weren’t winning state championships — as what I like to think are people that are more committed to what we’re saying we’re going to do than saying it itself.”
The Engineers (22-5 overall) made clear after Thursday’s state semifinal rout of C. Milton Wright that they thought they were the best 3A team in College Park, and Saturday’s blowout only further validated that claim.
The game was never in doubt for the Engineers, who opened the game with eight unanswered points and methodically built a 14-2 lead after the first quarter. Their length, size and physicality flustered Reservoir to the point where going scoreless in the period became a realistic possibility. That would not be the case thanks to a jumper from senior forward Josh Odunowo, but it would be the only points the Gators (18-9) could muster thanks to 1-for-19 shooting and six errant attempts from beyond the arc.
The beginning of the second frame was even more lopsided. A balanced scoring effort fueled a 14-2 run to start the period for the Engineers, prompting a Reservoir timeout. Another timeout occurred minutes later with the Gators trailing, 33-7.
The brief break in the action seemed to jumpstart the Gators, who played with more intensity and focus in the final few minutes of the half and actually outscored their Baltimore City opponent, 13-6, over that stretch. Leading the charge was Odunowo, who turned in an inspiring effort of 18 points and 14 rebounds in an otherwise lousy offensive showing.
Still, the Gators trailed by 19 at the break, and that’s as close as the 3A East region champion would get.
“That’s just a phenomenal high school basketball team. That’s a phenomenal team in general,” Coughlan said. “We knew we had our work cut out for us.”
If there was any hope of a Reservoir comeback over the final two periods, Poly immediately squashed it thanks to back-to-back dunks from Amani Walker (12 points) and seven straight consecutive points from Ali in the opening minutes of the third period.
And on the next possession, stat-stuffer Justin Lewis ignited the Engineer fans with an emphatic dunk, spinning through the lane before rising for the two-handed slam. The Gators’ deficit reached 30, prompting another timeout.
“This really started with the guys that came before us that worked hard in practice, that may not have had as much skill as us or as much resources as us,” Walker said. “But they put the platform for us to get where we are now. We wouldn’t be there without them.”
For a Reservoir team that won its second-ever region title this season and advanced to its first state championship in program history, the loss is one they’ll remember but not one that will define its season-long accomplishments or overshadow the memories they’ve built during their careers.
“It’s been a phenomenal group,” Coughlan said. “It’s a group I’ll never forget.”
As for Poly, a fourth-state championship is well within reach. With its top four scorers returning, they’ll work to build on what started as a middling boys basketball program but has since become a public school dynasty.
“We took the time to build, and we took the time to build the right way,” Brand said, “so it’s not going to come down easy.”
Poly (22-5) — 69, Reservoir (18-9) — 41
Poly — Murray 17, Ali 16, Walker 12, Lewis 8, Wallace 5, Brown 4, Lindsay 4, Massenburg 2, Lamothe 1.
Re — Odunowo 18, Bradford 5, Glasper 5, Ameli 4, Manning 2, McCallum 2, McKoy 2, Saunderson 2, Toler 1.
Halftime: 39-20, Poly