COLLEGE PARK — All season, Edmondson boys basketball coach Darnell Dantzler Sr. told his young players to stick with it. They were learning on the job.
In Saturday’s Class 1A state final against Baltimore City rival and three-time defending state champion Lake Clifton — a rematch from last year — the Red Storm showed they learned well.
In a tie game with under two minutes to play, No. 8 Edmondson found the answers as junior guard Josiah Brown took over.
Brown, one of only two regulars back from last year’s team, had a relentless drive before dishing to Marcus Jackson for a dunk that broke the tie. He then made eight straight free throws and a fitting dunk at the buzzer as the Red Storm claimed a 56-48 win over the No. 6 Lakers at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center.
Edmondson (22-7) claimed the program’s third state title and first since 2014 with five new starters from last year’s runner-up team, all underclassmen. The Red Storm lost three games to the Lakers last season, including the Baltimore City and state championship games and another this season, 50-46, on Dec. 16.
“It’s a relief,” Dantzler said.
“With all the tough losses early in the season, we didn’t give up and we kept fighting. Basketball is a game of adjustments, perseverance and not giving up. So just everything the kids have been through and some of the tragedies that have happened in Baltimore City, just to win a state championship, to give back to the community and for them to understand the kids played hard, practiced hard [is rewarding].”
Brown, who finished with 19 points to share team-high honors with sophomore point guard Darnell Dantzler Jr., proved a microcosm of the Red Storm’s persistence.
A starter last year, he dealt with personal issues and a knee injury over the course of the season but kept grinding. When Dantzler Sr. called on him late in the fourth quarter, he was ready.
The Lakers (22-5) scored four straight points to tie the game at 44 when Brown took the ball. And took over. He found an opening down the lane, saw the defense collapse on him, and found Jackson for an emphatic dunk that made it 46-44 with 1:31 to play.
After the Red Storm got two stops on defense, Brown was fouled on their following two possessions, calmly sinking four free throws to push the advantage to 50-44 with 25 seconds left. After he made four more and the capping dunk, the celebration was on.
“Coach Darnell always told me just settle down, take care of the personal business and it’s going to pay off on the court. Just don’t rush — let the game come to you,” Brown said.
He did just that in the season’s most important minutes when his coach asked him to take control of the game.
“When I got to the free throw line, I just took my time to ice the game,” he said.
During the trophy ceremony, Lake Clifton coach Herman “Tree” Harried, who had won the past three 1A titles and six state crowns in all, took it upon himself to hand over the team trophy to Dantzler. The two are Dunbar alumni.
“That was special,” Dantzler said. “Our history of being coaches and a part of Baltimore City basketball, he’s most definitely been a role model for all of us. It meant a lot to me for Tree to hand me the trophy because it solidified we are state champions.”
The Lakers had their own special season with a valiant run to the title game and year after year, they consistently found ways to close out on the winning side.
Saturday, they were giving up size to the Red Storm, who features 6-foot-8 Jackson and 6-10 freshman center Chase Foster, and also weathered senior forward Kristopher Mitchell getting a cut to his head that sidelined him for a portion of the third quarter.
The Lakers got a game-high 20 points from Jazae Jones and senior Quinton Monroe closed out a stellar career with 13, but it turned out the Red Storm’s day this time.
“Outstanding season. We had some new people come in and it took some time to gel,” Harried said. “I just told the guys in the locker room, we didn’t lose, we got beat. My guys played hard and I’m just proud of them.”
Saturday, the Red Storm started one freshman, three sophomores and their 13-player roster featured one senior. Dantzler also proudly pointed out that 11 of his 13 players had a 3.0 GPA or better.
E — Brown 19, Dantzler, Jr. 19, Jackson 6, Sherrod 3, Foster 4, Green 2, Davis 3. Totals: 56
LC — Mitchell 4, Dorsey 9, Monroe 13, Jones 20, Nelson 2. Totals: 48
Half: 27-26, LC