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Poly boys basketball claims Baltimore City Division I crown with 54-37 win over Dunbar

In the first quarter of Saturday’s Baltimore City Division I boys basketball championship, Poly used its edge in size against Dunbar to build a lead.

When the No. 4 Engineers opened the second quarter with a couple of quick 3-pointers, it was apparent they had a little too much of everything for the No. 5 Poets to keep up.

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Leading from the start and holding off a late Dunbar charge, Poly got 15 points from sophomore Justin Lewis on its way to a 54-37 win in front of an estimated 2,500 fans at Morgan State’s Hill Field House.

It’s the second Baltimore City championship in three years for the Engineers, who won the program’s first when they beat Dunbar, 64-43, in 2016. Poly heads into the region playoffs with a 17-6 record, while the Poets, who got a game-high 19 points from senior Da’Shawn Phillip, fell to 20-3.

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P — 4, Ali 12, Jones 5, Horton 12, Lewis 15, Brown 4, Wallace 2. Totals: 20 10-17 54

The Eagles used an 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to claim their second straight Division II title.

Playing a tough out-of-league schedule to prime for the postseason, this was the kind of effort the Engineers were looking for.

“It feels good,” Poly senior captain Demetrius Mims said. “We took a couple losses early, but the coaches preached by the end of the season that we’d be playing our best basketball, so that’s what we’re doing right now – playing together as a team.”

Leading by as many as 15 points early in the third quarter, the Engineers saw their lead dwindle to 41-36 before taking control of the game — a big follow basket from Kim Brown followed by a 3-pointer from Cleveland Horton were critical to holding off the Poets.

The display of team depth is what Poly coach Sam Brand was most pleased to see, noting the big basket from Brown, Horton’s big 3 and a big jumper from senior Seth Jones.

“We know that we have guys who are high-level players at the next level, but we believe every guy out there has something to contribute to every game,” Brand said. “I think the big difference in the game was that everybody did contribute.”

The Engineers hit the boards early in building a 15-8 lead after one quarter with four of their baskets coming on put-backs.

While the Poets struggled from the perimeter — their 3-point shooting playing a big role in their success all season — the Engineers used conseuctive long-range shots from Rahim Ali and Horton for their first double-digit lead at 21-10 with 6:01 to play in the half.

They would take complete control with an 8-0 run to close out the half — four different players getting baskets with Ali capping it on a driving layup with five seconds left for their biggest lead, 31-16, at the break.

At the end of the third quarter, the Poets got a last-second layup from Jared Lewis and then opened the fourth quarter with consecutive inside baskets from sophomore Jamal West Jr. — he sunk a monstrous dunk to cut the lead to 41-36 with 5:31 left. But the Engineers had the final big run to close out the victory.

Dunbar coach Cyrus Jones Sr. said early mistakes dug his team a hole that proved too deep.

“I think in the fourth quarter, we cut the lead to five with the basketball and just couldn’t put the ball in the hole for the big shot when we needed it,” he said.

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On Feb. 9, Poly claimed a 65-61 win at Dunbar, clinching a berth in Saturday’s title game while handing the Poets their first loss after an 18-0 start.

Lewis led the Engineers that game, scoring 25 of his career-high 36 points in the second half.

P — Mims 4, Ali 12, Jones 5, Horton 12, Lewis 15, Brown 4, Wallace 2. Totals: 20 10-17 54

D — Phillip 19, West Jr. 8, McCormick 8, Lewis 2. Totals: 16 3-8 37. Half: P, 31-16

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