The City and Edmondson boys basketball teams had used much the same blueprint in getting out to 8-0 starts this season — aggressive physical play on defense, strong rebounding and balanced scoring.
In Friday’s Baltimore City showdown between the two, host City was determined to assert itself from the start.
With its size and athleticism a deterrent on defense and junior guard Ahmad Harrison’s 21 points leading a balanced offense, the No. 5 Knights claimed a surprisingly comfortable 67-48 win over the No. 4 Red Storm.
City, which also got 15 points from senior guard Dominick Carrington and 10 from junior forward Clarence Obiajulu, ran its record to 9-0 and 2-0 in Baltimore City League’s A Division. Edmondson fell to 8-1 and 2-1 in division play.
After the home team opened with the game’s first five points, the Red Storm drew even midway through the first quarter before the Knights to took hold for good with their 17-11 lead going into the second quarter ballooning to a 14-point halftime advantage.
“We’ve been talking about how we’ve come out flat the past couple games, so a lot of the conversation was to — the term we use is ‘come out swinging,’ " City coach Omarr Smith said. “I told them I’ll take the mistakes, but give me the effort. So good or bad, let’s just come out swinging and be aggressive. And that’s what we did. When we play that way, we’re pretty tough to handle.”
The 6-foot-5 Obiajulu, 6-9 junior center Kevin Kulu and 6-6 senior forward Chandler Cuthrell blocked and affected Red Storm shots throughout. Once the Knights’ offense found its complete rhythm – a 17-4 run in the first half providing a 26-13 lead with 5:29 to play before the break – the game belonged to them. Kai Brooks and Harrison hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start the second quarter and then Kulu (nine points) converted a three-point play for the 26-13 advantage.
The Red Storm, which got 10 points from Quran Jones, cut the lead to 26-19 before the Knights built a 21-point lead in the latter stages of the third quarter.
“We knew we had to come out strong. Edmondson likes to get in the first punch, they are very physical, so we had to get the first blow in,” Harrison said.
Edmondson coach Darnell Dantzler was quick to credit City, particularly on the defensive end. But he was disappointed in how his team came out and mostly stayed flat.
“City played well on the defensive end — getting their hands on a bunch of blocked shots and I think it rattled the kids a little bit,” he said. “I tried to tell them to play through it, give some pump fakes, but they didn’t play well. We got to make some adjustments, but nine games in and we’re 8-1, so I think we’ll be fine."
Both teams return to the court Saturday, playing in the Baltimore Hoops Festival at St. Frances. City meets Gilman at 5 p.m. with Edmondson looking to bounce back against Calvert Hall at 7.
E – Lewis 9, Nelson 5, Hartz 7, Jones 10, Frink 4, Buchanon 2, Harrell 3, Rice 4, Moses 4. Totals: 19 3-7 48
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C – Booker 4, Harrison 21, Carrington 15, Obiajulu 10, Kulu 9, Cuthrell 5, Brooks 3. Totals: 25 4-15 67. Half: C, 35-21