The Randallstown Rams went to Walbrook yesterday as the reigning Class 3A state champions.
They left, however, with something perhaps even more valuable. A little respect.
Trailing by 11 with a minute left in the third quarter, the eighth-ranked Rams outscored the Warriors 32-11 the rest of the way en route to a 69-59 win in the opening game of the annual Function at the Junction Mixer.
Randallstown (3-0) dominated defensively in the second half, forcing six straight turnovers at one point and turning them into 16 straight points, all on transition baskets or at the foul line.
"We're a fourth-quarter team, and it was just a matter of time before our conditioning kicked in and we took over," said point guard Troy Lewis, who led the Rams with 22 points, three assists and two steals. "We had to prove that our state championship wasn't a fluke."
In the paint, 6-foot-8 center Dominique Liverpool was dominating in spurts. His 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks gave Randallstown an inside presence that the young Warriors just couldn't match.
To him, beating a traditional city power was a must.
"I came out here to win, and I just did what I had to do," said the junior. "Maybe we'll get a little more respect now that we beat a city team."
Walbrook (0-3) hurt its own cause all day. After opening the game by hitting just three of their first 20 shots from the field, the Warriors closed it by missing 12 of their final 17 foul shots.
The hosts had their moments, rallying from a four-point second-quarter deficit to take a 48-37 lead late in the third, mostly on the shooting of Derrick Thompson (11 points), Donte Webb (eight) and Antoine Hamlin (eight).
But when the Rams brought in 5-9 playmaker Herbie Wilson, the complexion of the game changed. Their pressure defense proved too much for Walbrook's inexperienced backcourt.
After graduating four starters from last year's 15-5 squad, the Warriors' youth and inexperience showed at the most critical times.
"That's what's killing us," said coach Gus Herrington. "We have too many turnovers and can't make free throws."
For Rams coach Kim Rivers, however, there was little to complain about.
The win was huge, especially for a team from Baltimore County, long considered inferior to the city.
"This means a lot to our kids," said Rivers. "Once we realized we could play with them, I guess the best came out of us."
The Rams will have to be at their best again today when they face sixth-ranked Lake Clifton in a battle of state champions at 5:45.
The Lakers (4-0), the defending Class 4A champs, had little trouble in their game yesterday, disposing of No. 20 Northern, 81-59.
Junior Michael King and sophomore Kevin Braswell each scored 24 points, and Dante Lemmon added 15 as coach Charlie Moore's young squad dominated the upset-minded Vikings.
The Lakers led just 15-13 after the first quarter and 37-29 at the break, but outscored Northern, 44-30, in the second half.
For a team that graduated its top six players, including All-Metro Player of the Year Shawnta Rogers, the performance was encouraging.
"They're young, and I think at times they're on the right track," said Moore. "We have to pay attention and be obsessed with the fundamentals. Each game is going to help us."
Anthony Lee led Northern with 18 points, including 14 in the second half. But the Vikings hurt their own cause with 14-for-27 foul shooting and turnovers.
In the nightcap, fourth-ranked Southwestern improved to 3-0 with a harder than expected 70-58 win over Edmondson.
The Sabers (3-0) led, 37-31, early in the third quarter before reeling off 15 of the next 21 points to take command. Stanley Parker led the victors with 20 points and Reggie Johnson added 19.
"We didn't play good at all," said Southwestern coach Terry Leverett. "Edmondson played a good game, but I think our guys had the impression that all we had to do was show up."
The Sabers were hampered by the foul trouble of defensive catalyst Donta Lloyd. After picking up two fouls in the first two minutes, and taking the bench, Lloyd picked up his third shortly after halftime.
Virgil Singleton led the Redskins with a game-high 27 points.
RF Southwestern plays host to Walbrook in the finale tonight at 7:30.