The No. 3 Poly boys basketball team got around to being its dominant self again Thursday night, shaking off a sluggish first half to claim a 91-60 win over No. 6 City for the Class 3A North Region I championship.
All-Metro senior forward Justin Lewis was sensational, finishing with 34 points, 18 rebounds and five blocked shots. Fellow senior wing Brandon Murray delivered a fine all-around game that included 21 points, and sophomore guard Bryce Lindsay hit five 3-pointers to finish with 18 points.
The Engineers (23-2), seeking their fourth straight Class 3A state championship, advanced to the state quarterfinal round, which is new this season. The eight region winners will be reseeded, with Poly (23-2) set to host an undetermined opponent Saturday.
City, which got 13 points from senior guard Dominick Carrington, closed its season with a 22-3 record, including two losses against Poly.
When City guard Ahmad Harrison scored at the second quarter buzzer, the Knights had managed to stay on even terms with the Engineers, 37-37, at the break.
But the Engineers, who averaged 77 points per game while yielding 35 in going 13-0 against Baltimore City competition this season, quickly returned to top form at the start of the third quarter.
They opened with the first 12 points — dominating the boards and getting 3s from Lindsay and Murray — to pull away. When Murray converted a three-point play with 36 seconds left in the pivotal frame and added a basket at the buzzer, the Engineers led 71-45.
The difference between the first half and after?
“Energy,” said Lewis, who is set to play at Marquette.
“We knew we were the better team and we just needed to show it, just get stops and converting on our fast breaks. We just needed to show our work.”
Murray, in his second season at Poly, put the team’s consistent success in simple terms.
“I love playing on this team with these guys — we just work hard and play for each other,” he said.
The Engineers have bigger goals after becoming the first 3A team to win three straight championships last season.
They are three games away from a fourth and making certain not to look past the next game. They will find out Friday morning who their next opponent will be.
“It’s going to take everything,” Lewis said. “We got three and we’re trying to get another one and we know it’s going to be the toughest one.”
This season, the Knights were the only Baltimore City opponent to stay within single digits against Poly when they fell at home, 77-69, on Feb. 3.
In Thursday’s first half, they scrapped for rebounds, forced some turnovers and hit some big shots to build an 18-12 first-quarter lead and go into the break tied.
The Engineers were just too tough in the second half. In addition to Carrington’s effort, Harrison and Karell Booker each finished with 11 points, while forward Clarence Obiajulu added 10. All three are juniors, which already has City coach Omarr Smith thinking about next season’s potential.
“I’m extremely grateful to coach this group of guys. I get a nice core coming back and the time starts now toward working on next year,” he said.
“[In the] first half we executed, switched up our defenses and I think we had them a little off balance. In the second half, they made have made some adjustments but, more importantly, they made shots.”
P — Lewis 34, Murray 21, Evans 7, Lindsay 18, English 5, Walden 2, Lamothe 2, Jackson 2. Totals: 33 9-18 91
C — Booker 11, Harrison 11, Carrington 13, Obiajulu 10, Kulu 2, Cuthrell 9, Brooks 2, Leath 2. Totals: 24 5-7 60