The Poly boys basketball team played its finest in the final two minutes of the first half in Saturday’s East Coast Bump showcase against Florida’s nationally ranked IMG Academy, scoring 15 straight points.
In the final minute of the game, the No. 3 Engineers simply scrapped.
The combination proved epic, with the Engineers getting a reverse layup from senior point guard Rahim Ali with eight seconds left to will their way to a 62-60 win over the Ascenders from Bradenton at UMBC’s Event Center.
The Poly bigs played bigger than their opponents despite giving up considerable length, as Brandon Murray scored 21 points, Justin Lewis added 20 and freshman Kwame Evans chipped in 16.
In the end, Ali, who fed his teammates and played tough defense throughout, took the initiative after IMG, ranked No. 9 in ESPN’s national poll, tied the game with 27 seconds left.
Ali drove to the basket, and when the defense closed in, put in a reverse layup off the glass to give the Engineers the lead. One last stop — Tamir Hassan’s 3-point try was off the mark at the buzzer — secured the win as the crowd erupted.
“I knew down the stretch I was going to have to make a play. I had my teammates making plays all day, so when it came down to the moment, I just made the play. My teammates were carrying me the whole game and they depended on me on that last shot,” said Ali, a four-year starter who finished with three points.
It completed a special night of Baltimore City basketball, which started with St. Frances knocking off Virginia-power Oak Hill, 80-61.
The Engineers, who improved to 19-2, had a tougher time. Baltimore grit was needed after the Ascenders methodically chipped away at a 15-point third-quarter lead.
“The whole week, the coaches were talking about these big guys coming in from out of town to take over. ... So after each day in practice, we just attacked it until we got better. We saw what they were doing, we watched film on them, and came out and executed. This win means a lot,” said Lewis, who hit four free throws in the final 1:37. “We were knocked out of the [national] Top 25 by St. Frances but this should get us back in there."
The Engineers stayed close as they settled in early on and exploded in the final two minutes of the second quarter, going on a 15-0 run to enjoy a 35-25 lead at the break.
Murray, who scored a career-high 44 points in Poly’s win over City earlier in the week, was instrumental in the key stretch.
He scored nine points, hitting a 3-pointer and then beating the buzzer on a layup following a steal and assist from Ali.
P – Ali 3, Lewis 20, Murray 21, Evans 16, Lindsay 2. Totals: 18 21-28 62
IMG – Springer 18, Williams 4, Murrell 10, Diabate 14, Walker 8, Kidd 2, Huntley-Hatfield 2, Hassan 2. Totals: 25 7-7 60
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Half: P, 35-25