Edmondson High boys basketball coach Darnell Dantzler has often said the season is “on the job training” for his young team. The Red Storm lost three of their biggest challenges in Baltimore City play on the road.
With a return trip to the city title game at stake Friday at Poly, Edmondson showed its potential. The No. 6 Red Storm defeated the 14th-ranked Engineers, 71-53, in a Division I match in North Baltimore.
Sophomore guard D.J. Dantzler posted a game-high 31 points for Edmondson (11-5 overall), and Josiah Brown added 20 points and five rebounds. Eli Kutcherman finished with 14 points for Poly, and junior Marcus Matthews added 13.
The Red Storm ceased control at the start of the second half to gain sole possession of first in Division I at 5-0. The top team in Division I will play the top finisher in Division Il for the city championship next month.
A day after falling at Dunbar, Edmondson responded and has the inside track to a second straight city title-game appearance.
“We had to match the intensity. We’ve played a bunch of tough teams on the road,” said Red Storm coach Darnell Dantzler, whose team dropped decisions at defending city champ Lake Clifton to start league play last month, and undefeated and No. 4 City last week. “We made a couple of adjustments on the defensive end, eliminated turnovers and hit free throws when it counted. It was all the little things we needed to do to win.”
“We haven’t been playing as a team…we brought the team together and had to be on the same page for this one,” said DJ Dantzler. “It was a tough win.”
Dantzler, the coach’s son who transferred from St. Frances spearheaded the Red Storm in the second half Friday. He drained a 3-pointer to break a 24-24 halftime tie, followed with a steal and layup.
After Brown converted inside for a 31-24 lead, Dantzler juked a defender and dropped a jumper. The 5-foot-10 guard displayed great body control for a finish at the basket, giving Edmondson a 35-24 advantage with 5:51 left in the third.
D.J. Dantzler, who added five assists and three steals, said the Red Storm coaches challenged the team at halftime.
“The coaches got on us and told us we had to play hard. They knew we were capable of doing better,” said Dantzler. “It was just effort.”
“We turned up the intensity,” said Edmondson junior center Marcus Jackson.
Poly climbed back to within 40-34 late in the third quarter, but Jackson re established control for the Red Storm. The 6-7 post went up for an inbound pass from Dantzler and slammed it with one hand, sending a buzz through the gym.
Jackson (10 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots) pushed Edmondson’s lead into double-digits, 46-36, early in the fourth with a basket. The Red Storm led by as many as 22 points.
“They executed the game plan and followed my instructions,” said Darnell Dantzler. “I told them I need to start coaching them more instead of letting them play…I’m growing with my team.”
It was tight throughout the first half Friday, with 13 lead changes and four ties. Poly led 24-22 late in the half after a 3-point play by Matthews, but DJ Dantzler tied it with a basket with 16 seconds remaining.
Engineers interim coach Chris Cromartie said Edmondson guards, especially DJ Dantzler, was able to handle their man-to-man pressure Friday.
“Normally I switch my defenses for different looks, but I thought man-to-man would give us a better chance because they would have heavy legs from playing a tough game at Dunbar,” said Cromartie, whose team fell to 11-2 overall and 3-1 in Division I. “I didn’t think he (Dantzler) would be as poised as he is…he got the job done.”
The Red Storm have Digital Harbor, Forest Park and Patterson remaining in Division I play. Edmondson lost to Lake Clifton in last year’s city title game.
The Red Storm are starting two sophomores and three juniors this season.
“We’ve taken some bumps, but I’m appreciating their growth. We’ve thrown them into the fire,” said Darnell Dantzler. “We’ve played a lot of tough games on the road, and they’re responding. I’m just happy they’re playing as hard as they can.”
NO. 6 EDMONDSON 71, NO. 14 POLY 53
Edmondson - Dantzler 31, Brown 20, Jackson 10, Sherrod 6, Green 2, West 2. Totals 24 17-25 71.
Poly - Kutcherman 14, Matthews 12, Gates 9, Fisher 7, Gaymon 6, McLeod 5. Totals 17 16-26 53.
Edmondson 10 14 20 27 - 71
Poly 8 16 10 19 - 53