The Poly boys basketball team got rolling Monday at Lake Clifton with some fine 3-point shooting.
And then the visiting Engineers were able to pound the ball inside for more points. Throughout the four quarters, their length on defense made it a burden for the home team to consistently find offense.
When the Baltimore City showdown – a battle of two defending state champions — was complete, the No. 4 Engineers, also defending league champions, had more than enough answers at both ends of the court to claim a 76-55 win against the No. 7 Lakers.
Forward Justin Lewis scored a team-high 22 points and added 14 rebounds; point guard Rahim Ali had 17 points, eight assists, six rebounds and five steals; and forward Amani Walker went for 10 points and 10 rebounds to lead the way.
Poly, which had to forfeit its season opener against Digital Harbor, is 3-2 overall and 1-1 in league play. The Lakers, who got a game-high 26 points from Armon Harried, are 5-1 and 2-1 in the league.
“We knew we had to stay even the whole game — we couldn’t get too high or too low — so that’s what we did. When we scored we stayed even, ran our plays and we stayed consistent with what the plan was,” Ali said.
Building a double-digit lead with the help of three 3-pointers from Ian Wallace (13 points) at the end of the first quarter, the Engineers never allowed the Lakers to get closer than nine points the rest of the game — going on two pivotal runs in the second half to pull away.
With the lead at 39-29 midway through the third quarter, the Lakers couldn’t convert a basket in transition and then the Engineers did.
Lewis made an easy lay-in that started an 8-0 run that took less than a minute off the clock — Ali converting a three-point play and then feeding Walker for a dunk and one to make it 47-29.
Behind Harried, who scored 10 straight Lake Clifton points to end the third quarter, the Lakers again got within 10 points in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter before a 16-2 Poly spurt broke the game open. Ali converted a three-point play and Lewis went for seven of his 11 fourth-quarter points in taking complete control.
Ali said having three starters and other key contributors back from last year’s team, which produced a second straight Class 3A title, helps when adversity strikes.
“That’s the plus of having a lot of returnees coming back. When we’ve got to overcome something, we know how to do it. It’s the chemistry that we’ve built and that’s what we do when things go against us,” he said.
For the Lakers, who also got 13 points from Michael Gray, every time they appeared ready to get back into the game, a lack of execution — and the Engineers — got in the way.
“Poly played well and we could have played a little better,” Lake Clifton coach Herman “Tree” Harried said. “Every time we missed an opportunity to get even closer, they made a push.”
P—Ali 17, Lewis 22, Walker 10, Wallace 13, English 6, Lindsay 6, Bethea 2. Totals: 27 12-23 76
LC—Gray 13, Harried 26, Harris 8, Hughes 4, Tiggle 4. Totals: 17 19-28 55
Half: P, 34-20