Stay together with tough defense and trust that everything else will take care of itself at the end.
That’s been the Lake Clifton boys basketball team’s mantra all season, and it showed up in Tuesday’s Baltimore City championship game against Edmondson.
After losing the lead in the third quarter, the No. 7 Lakers pulled away in the deciding fourth to claim a 57-52 win over the No. 14 Red Storm at Dunbar High.
Junior guard Quinton Monroe took on the lead role, scoring 26 points while putting the Lakers ahead down the stretch. Monroe scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including four straight free throws and the clinching layup in the final seconds.
Lake Clifton improved to 15-1 on the season, while Edmondson fell to 17-3.
Once again, as has been the case all season, the Lakers’ gumption showed up when it mattered most. Myles McDuffie added 11 points and Kristopher Mitchell finished with nine.
“Coach [Herman “Tree” Harried] always tells us to stay together, stay poised, and one thing about us is we always fight and win games like this. We just kept fighting and we wanted it more,” Monroe said.
The Lakers led for most of the first half. An 11-2 run late in the second quarter gave Lake Clifton its biggest advantage at 35-23, with Monroe hitting a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left. But the Red Storm answered with a three from London Hinton at the halftime buzzer to cut the deficit to 35-26.
Edmondson, which got 20 points from Hinton, carried the momentum into the third quarter with a 13-2 run to go up 39-37.
Trailing 41-40 going into the fourth quarter, the Lakers got back to their strong rebounding and attacked the basket to take hold of the game. Along with Monroe, Kijuan Hargett hit a key basket to help Lake Clifton pull away. With 1:13 to play, Mitchell took a feed from Jalen Connor for an uncontested layup to give the Lakers a 53-50 lead. Monroe secured the win with his work at the free-throw line.
Coming off a year with no basketball because of the coronavirus pandemic, Harried called the program’s fifth Baltimore City championship monumental.
“We knew we would have to deal with adversity and they weren’t going to lay down and give us the game,” he said. “I told them we got to keep playing, keep grinding and keep grinding and just weather the storm. Edmondson came ready and we had two fighting teams and we pulled it out.”
Edmondson coach Darnell Dantzler said the small details proved the difference in the game’s most important minutes.
“They’re scrappy over there — got to a couple loose balls that we didn’t get and we made some mental mistakes,” he said. “But my kids fought through it all. They went down 12 or 13 points and they fought, and just for them to be down to the last possession of the game — I feel good about the effort. We just got to finish up at the end.”
Both teams reached the title game with dramatic wins Feb. 15 during the final week of the regular season.
Lake Clifton fought off No. 12 City for a 57-55 home victory that decided the B Division. In the battle for the A Division crown, Edmondson got a 3-pointer from senior Kelvin Martin with 3.4 seconds left to get past visiting No. 11 Patterson, 50-49.
The teams will next challenge for the Class 1A North championship, with Lake Clifton competing in Region I and Edmondson in Region II. Postseason play begins Friday, with both teams earning first-round byes as the top seeds in their respective regions.
The Lakers will host Lewis in the second round Monday, while the Red Storm will be at home against the New Era-Douglass winner.
No. 7 Lake Clifton 57, No. 14 Edmondson 52
E — Bennett 14, Hinton 20, Edwards 10, Stewart 6, Brown 2. Total: 17 13-18 52
LC — Mosley 6, Mitchell 9, Hargett 2, Monroe 26, McDuffie 11, Connor 3. Totals: 23 8-12 57
Half: LC, 35-26