A four-year varsity player and now a captain for the Poly boys basketball team, senior guard Demetrius Mims is well aware that this is his time.
It is his time to make big baskets, grab a key rebound, play strong defense and, perhaps most importantly, simply lead the No. 3 Engineers.
The All-Metro standout did all of those things in the fourth quarter against No. 1 Perry Hall in Wednesday night’s showdown between two defending state champions.
Mims finished with 29 points — including nine in the final quarter — and added nine rebounds to lead Poly to a 72-63 win over the Gators.
Before Poly claimed the Class 3A state title and Perry Hall won the 4A crown last season — both firsts for each program — the Gators rolled to an 83-60 home win over the Engineers last December. The previous season, Perry Hall beat Poly with a basket at the buzzer. Those losses brought added motivation to the Engineers this season, and they made sure to use it by ending the game on a 23-11 run.
“We owed them one — we owed them one,” said Mims, a Long Beach State commit. “We just knew we had to lock in and get this win. We he had a lot of lapses on defense early in the game, so we had to tighten up and it worked out well for us to get the win.”
Trailing 52-49 to start the fourth, the Engineers (3-0) opened with a 9-0 run — Mims scoring inside on the streak’s opening and final basket — to set the tone.
He had plenty of help. Sophomore forward Justin Lewis had a double double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, senior guard Cleveland Horton had 13 points and six steals and sophomore point guard Rahim Ali had nine points and eight assists.
One of the biggest fourth-quarter plays came from 5-foot-9 senior guard Seth Jones, who battled inside for a rebound and scored to make it 61-54 with 4:03 to play.
The Gators (1-1), who got 15 points from junior forward Anthony Walker and 14 from senior forward Laquill Hardnett, would get as close as 61-56 before the Engineers got another key drive from Mims and a 3-pointer from Horton to claim the first double-digit lead at 66-56 with 2:07 to play.
“Today, everybody saw two really good basketball teams — back and forth, back and forth,” Poly coach Sam Brand said. “But I think being at home, having the history against them and then Demetrius just being on a mission not to lose to these guys three times in a row [was the difference]. And we got a lot of contributions elsewhere.”
With Hardnett and senior guard Tyler Holley in foul trouble by the fourth quarter, the Gators played several zones, but the Engineers were able to find answers.
“We were in foul trouble with Hardnett and Holley, so we’re trying to not give up fouls so we had to play defense differently and I give Poly credit — they executed their offense no matter what defense we threw at them. It was impressive to watch. We threw a lot of different looks but I give Sam and their kids credit — they beat us and deserved to win,” Perry Hall coach George Panageotou said.
PH — Hardnett 14, Higgs 9, An. Walker 17, Holley 8, Cloude 6, Johnson 3, Mickens 6. Totals: 23 16-27 63
PO — Mims 29, Horton 13, Jones 5, Ali 9, Lewis 16. Totals: 25 16-25 72
Half: PO, 37-36