COLLEGE PARK — Edmondson struggled throughout the first half of Saturday’s Class 1A state title game and held a tenuous, one-point lead over Allegany at halftime.
Then, Red Storm coach Darnell Dantzler adjusted. On offense, he emphasized patience, pushing his team to slow down and take its time to find a good shot. On defense, Edmondson switched out of a zone to a man-to-man.
Those changes worked at both ends as the No. 6 Red Storm controlled the tempo throughout the second half and slowed Allegany’s offense en route to a 54-51 victory at Comcast Center.
The victory game Edmondson its second consecutive state title. The Red Storm (20-5) won the Class 2A state crown last winter before moving back to Class 1A this year. Josh Garrett led the team with 15 points, and Sean Burke added 10.
Dantzler said he teaches Edmondson to play two different styles on offense. He wants to be able to run and gun and yet also play slow, thinking out each possession — the style the Red Storm went to in the second half.
“We just wanted to make sure we got a good shot,” Dantzler said. “Instead of us coming in, rushing and people going for [themselves], what we did was actually ran our offense. We ran a couple of sets so we can get five or six good passes.”
The Red Storm executed that to perfection in the second half, especially during the third quarter. Edmondson took a 26-25 lead at the break, but it slowed everything down afterward, searching for good passes and high-percentage shots.
Point guard Chaz Lassiter calmly directed the offense as Edmondson held the ball for up to two minutes at a time. Allegany (24-2) came into the final averaging 82 points per game, but the Red Storm’s man-to-man defense clearly threw the Campers off their game.
Allegany scored 26 points in the second half, but 10 came in the final two minutes when the Campers were trying to rally.
“Our coach told us they were a high-scoring team, and we didn’t want that to happen,” Lassiter said. “We just had to play man-to-man all around the floor. I don’t think they were expecting us to go man-to-man for that long, or to hold the ball.”
Allegany rarely got possession for much of the third quarter and scored only three baskets as Edmondson took a 41-35 lead after three.
Garrett, a 6-foot-8 senior forward-center, repeatedly got possession inside and scored 10 of his 15 points after the break. Burke, a 6-foot senior, got two lay-ups and scored five of his 10 points in the last two quarters.
“I just wanted to step up and play hard for my teammates,” Garrett said. “It was like usual, just catching and finishing.”
The Red Storm kept everything mostly the same in the fourth quarter, stretching the lead to 50-39 late in the period. The Campers rallied in the final minutes, and coach Tedd Eirich said Edmondson’s decision to slow the tempo really surprised him.
“They cut down on our number of possessions,” Eirich said. “It cuts [down] what we’re good at.”
Allegany guard Trenton Eirich finished with a team-high 14 points, but other than scoring five points in the final two minutes, the senior was shut down in the second half by Burke.
Allegany also hurt its own cause by making only 14 of 24 free throws.
“Everyone had to step up on defense,” Dantzler said. “That’s how we were able to turn the game around.”
No. 6 Edmondson 54, Allegany 51
A- D’Arti 12, Pendergast 2, Eirich 14, Nightengale 16, Jessie 13, Sivic 4. Totals: 16 14-24 51.
E- Watty 8, Lassiter 6, Garrett 15, Burke 10, Harris-Jones 1, Coles 9, McClain 5. Totals: 19 14-27 54.
Half: E, 26-25.