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Poly boys basketball cruises past Lake Clifton, 61-44, to win Baltimore City title

At the start of the season, the Poly boys basketball team set a tremendous pace, boldly challenging its Baltimore City opponents to try and keep up.

Nothing changed Tuesday night.

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In the Baltimore City championship game at Morgan State’s Hill Field House, No. 5 Lake Clifton had a second try against the No. 3 Engineers, but found a familiar uphill climb.

The game’s opening possession reinforced that. After winning the tip, Poly senior Brandon Murray had a monstrous one-handed slam on an alley-oop pass from Justin Lewis.

The Engineers scored the game’s first 17 points to set the tone in a 61-44 win over the Lakers for the program’s third Baltimore City crown since 2016.

Poly, which got a dominant 26-point performance from Lewis, improved to 21-2, including a 14-0 mark against league competition. Only No. 6 City was able to keep the score under double digits, with Poly claiming a 77-69 win over the Knights on Feb. 3.

Much like their 79-52 win over Lake Clifton (18-5) on Dec. 16, the Engineers’ size, athleticism and defensive pressure proved too much for the Lakers.

“This was the second time playing Lake and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, so we just wanted to come out strong, stick to our game plan, play hard and win the game,” Lewis said. “I just come out and try to do what I can and I get my energy from my teammates and playing defense.”

On defense, Lewis and Kwame Evans each blocked shots in the opening two minutes, igniting the offensive surge.

In leading 21-5 after one quarter, point guard Rahim Ali scored on a follow, Bryce Lindsay hit a 3-pointer and Lewis scored 10 points, including turning a steal at midcourt into a thunderous dunk.

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"I’m really glad we were able to get off to that kind of start,” Poly coach Sam Brand said. “You’re always worried when you have a three-week break. So we were concerned about the start and knew defense would be the key early. I really liked our first five or six possessions defensively — we got stops and transition the other way and that’s a great way to start a game to get your confidence back.”

Behind Gray (26 points) and Blackwell (13), the Lakers tried to stay close but were never able to overcome a double-digit deficit.

When Gray scored a basket midway through the third quarter to cut the lead to 34-23, Lewis cranked it back up with six straight points.

“We had a slow start, they got out on us and we were in a hole all game,” Lake Clifton coach Herman “Tree” Harried said. “We have to move forward — playoffs are starting and we got to get back to playing winning basketball.”

The teams, both defending state champions, will turn their attention on the playoffs with both earning quarterfinal-round byes in their respective regions.

Poly, which is aiming for a fourth straight Class 3A state crown, will take on Friday’s Franklin-Lansdowne winner in a North region semifinal Tuesday.

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The Lakers are defending Class 1A state champions seeking the program’s seventh state crown. They’ll open North region play Tuesday, awaiting the winner of Friday’s Reginald Lewis-Douglass-BC winner.

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