Mid-November through the month or so that followed — a time when the Digital Harbor boys basketball team was more like an uneven collection of individual talent — is now a distant memory.
No more struggling to identify roles. No more having one player or the next trying to do too much. No more losses.
The surging Rams, who started the season with a 2-4 mark, have turned the corner and then some.
Taking turns stepping up on offense, rebounding at both ends and playing solid team defense, the No. 6 Rams proved too tough to handle for Gwynn Park in the Class 2A state semifinals, coming away with a dominating 75-45 win over the Yellow Jackets from Prince George's County Friday night at Comcast Center.
A state champion in Class 1A in 2009, Digital Harbor (15-7) will try to add a 2A crown when it returns to Comcast Center on Saturday to meet the South Carroll-Easton winner. Game time is set for 6 p.m.
Antonio Manns (16 points, 11 rebounds), Nyme Manns (15, 11) and Daquan Cook (15, 10) — all junior transfers — registered double doubles as Digital Harbor shot 50 percent from the field and outrebounded the Yellow Jackets (17-9), 49-29.
"I think we came into the season with not much chemistry — we had a lot of transfers — and then once we got ourselves together, we just started playing together and going hard. We just want o go out and play strong and play together," said Antonio Manns.
That was certainly the case in Friday's stunning win over Gwynn Park, which lost to City in last year's title game but was banking on that experience pulling them through this year.
The Rams led 29-18 at the half and methodically pulled away in the third quarter. Five different players scored in the pivotal quarter — Cook leading the way with eight — as the Rams took a 53-32 lead into the final quarter.
Senior point guard Kevin Smith, who scored eight points and took care of the basketball, isn't surprised the team is one win away from a state title.
"Yeah, that was our goal from the beginning — to get to where we are today. We had a setback with the losses, but we still had our goal," said Smith, who transferred from Huntington Prep in West Virginia. "We just started over at practice, started from the basics and worked our way up. It's paying off."
After a tough 68-65 loss to No. 4 Dunbar to end their regular season, the Rams hit their stride in the tough Class 2A North region, grinding out a 72-70 road win at Lake Clifton in an early-round game before avenging an 83-66 loss against Edmondson with an 80-55 statement performance for the regional crown.
DH – A. Manns 16, Cook 15, N. Manns 15, Epps 7, K. Smith 8, Barnes 7, Shango 2, Williams 2, Conyers 2, D. Smith 1. Totals: 25 20-31 75.
GP – Henry 11, Barnes 9, Harris 9, Ford 6, Hall 1, Walton 2, Hawkins 6, Grant 1. Totals: 14 13-19 45.
Half: DH, 29-18