Poly shooting guard Brandon Murray always has a feeling it will be a good night when he scores on his first shot, especially when he attacks the basket.
So when the No. 3 Engineers won the opening tip at No. 6 City on Monday and he threw down an alley-oop pass from point guard Rahim Ali just eight seconds into the game, the stage was set.
And Murray stayed true to his word.
The senior scored 16 first-quarter points to give the Engineers a big early lead, and every time the Knights tried to get close, he scored even more. Murray finished with a career-high 44 points, shooting 7-for-8 from 3-point range, to lead Poly to a 77-69 win over the Knights in Baltimore City play.
Poly, which has already clinched a berth in the Baltimore City title game, improved to 17-2.
On the road playing a big rivalry game, the Murray-led Engineers were as efficient as can be in pulling out to a 24-6 lead after a tone-setting first quarter.
Asked what it was like to be playing at such an efficient level on offense — he missed only three shots the entire game — Murray said: “I feel unstoppable. It’s like me being in that flow, that zone, is basically because of my guys. They were [finding] me in the right position every single time.”
Murray was the beneficiary of strong team defense and good ball movement in the team’s fast start.
He hit four 3’s in the opening quarter with Kwame Evans and Bryce Lindsay also hitting from long range to help build the big lead.
City guard Dominick Carrington (team-high 25 points) hit three 3’s and added a three-point play to spark the Knights early in the second quarter, cutting the lead to 26-18, but Murray answered with a 3 and cut to the basket once again to extend the lead to double digits.
Trailing 54-36 minutes into the fourth quarter, the Knights mounted a run, scoring seven straight points. Clarence Obiajulu’s follow cut the advantage to 54-43 with 4:49 to play, but Murray and the Engineers held the home team off. Justin Lewis found Murray on a backdoor cut and Murray and Lindsay hit 3′s to secure the victory.
“Brandon Murray is a special talent. I’ve been saying it for awhile and people are seeing it now,” Poly coach Sam Brand said. “He scores in bunches, plays the right way and he doesn’t take bad shots or play outside of his game and he showed that tonight. I know it sounds crazy because he was hot, but it’s really the way we see him play every day. That’s who Brandon is.”
The Knights lost out on a berth in the Baltimore City title game when they fell to Lake Clifton last week, but the way they closed out strong Monday showed coach Omarr Smith plenty. There’s a good chance they will meet up with Poly again in the Class 3A region playoffs.
“If you heard me screaming at the end just now telling them how we finish matters — it definitely matters,” he said. “We’ll see them again. To their credit, they came out shooting the [heck] out of the basketball. But for my guys to fight back and play to the end — that’s what it’s all about and I’m proud of them.”
P — Ali 5, Lewis 8, Murray 44, Evans 5, Wallace 1, Lindsay 11, English 2, Walden 1. Totals: 29 18-19 77
C — Booker 2, Harrison 11, Carrington 25, Obiajulu 7, Kulu 2, Cuthrell 14, Johnson 8. Totals: 22 13-19 69
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Half: P, 46-31