The horn sounded around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday evening inside Morgan State University’s Hill Field House and the City boys basketball team’s bench emptied onto the court to celebrate.
The Knights defeated Edmondson to claim arguably the toughest boys public league championship in the Baltimore metro area.
And, as they danced with coach Omarr Smith, the Knights chanted four words: “City runs the City.”
The No. 3 Knights are the last team standing after a hard fought 52-46 victory over the No. 8 Red Storm in front of an estimated audience of 3,000. Senior guard Daniel Parsons scored 19 points for City.
Kwon Johnson’s 3-pointer with 55 seconds left in regulation, broke a 43-43 deadlock as the undefeated Knights (23-0 overall) gained their first city championship since the 2013-14 season when the Northeast Baltimore school went 27-0 and won the Class 3A state championship.
After outscoring Edmondson two weeks ago (78-73), City survived a defensive struggle Tuesday to keep its bid at perfection intact.
“I got a team full of seniors,” said Smith. “I asked the team yesterday in practice what’s the most important part of a camera: the focus…The most important part is thinking in certain situations and focusing at opportune times.”
“Last year, we missed out on this experience,” said Johnson. “This year, we wanted to make the most of this experience.”
Johnson, one of seven seniors, authored arguably the biggest moment so far this season for the Knights. The 6-foot guard got a pass from teammate Kyree Smith on the wing and dropped a 3-pointer, giving City its final lead of the evening.
“My shot was off most of the game, but I stayed confident,” said Johnson, who finished with seven points. “I trust myself more than anything, so I’m going to keep shooting it.”
Johnson nabbed an Edmondson miss and sent a downcourt pass to Parsons, who laid the ball off the glass, for a 48-43 advantage with 34 seconds left. Kyree Smith got the rebound off another Edmondson miss, leading two free throws by Parsons with 14.8 seconds remaining.
The steady veteran backcourt of Johnson and Smith combined for 16 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots Tuesday.
“I like my guys,” said Omarr Smith.
Kyree Smith, who had six rebounds, said City stayed resolute against Edmondson’s zone Tuesday.
“Coach kept saying get to the middle and create driving lanes and create shots for each other,” said Smith. “It’s about having trust in each other.”
Edmondson (15-7) led 39-35 with 6:28 left in regulation, but scores from Kyree Smith and Cam Horton, whose initial shot was blocked by Marcus Jackson before recovering, tied the match at 39. Smith, off a helper from Johnson, hit a jumper to deadlock the game at 41.
Jackson regained the lead for Edmondson with a strong drive before Kyree Smith (nine points) answered with a mid-range jumper with 1:33 left in regulation. The Red Storm turned the ball over with 1:16 to play, leading to Johnson’s dagger.
“He’s confident…he’ll take the risks,” said Omarr Smith. “He’ll take his cuss outs, his fuss outs and keep playing…I have faith in him.”
Kyrie Sherrod led Edmondson with 13 points and sophomore Darnell Dantzler Jr. added 10. The Red Storm, playing a long zone with 6-10 freshman Chase Foster (nine points, five rebounds, two blocks) and 6-7 Jackson (nine points, seven rebounds, four blocked shots), were poised to win their first city championship since 2010.
In the end, it was a familiar theme for Edmondson coach Darnell Dantzler, who has no seniors on this season’s roster.
“We had a couple of bad turnovers down the stretch, but we fought,” said Dantzler. “We’ve fought all season and from them to be so young and bounce back and fight…we’ve had a lot of tough losses this year, but I told them we’re going to go through some growing pains and they’re growing up.”
As City players and coaches prepared to pose for postgame pictures Tuesday, Omarr Smith kept looking down at the city championship plaque he was holding. A former star guard for the Knights, Smith was an assistant under coach Daryl Wade on City’s 27-0 team in 2014.
“I thought yesterday about the company this championship puts me in - Daryl Wade, Herman Harried (Lake Clifton), Rodney Cofield (Douglass), Terry Leverett (Southwestern), those are guys who were coaching when I played and have relationships with,” said Smith, referring to those coaches who won a city title with a perfect record. “This is special.”
City will try to win the Class 3A state championship and solidify its place among Baltimore basketball’s best over the last quarter century. The Knights host Milford Mill or Digital Harbor in the North Region I semifinals Tuesday.
“We’ve been confident since day one. We’ve never had a lack of confidence,” said Johnson. “We trust each other enough to know we can make these shots, we can make these passes, we can make these plays for each other.”
BALTIMORE CITY CHAMPIONSHIP
at Morgan State University
NO. 3 CITY 52, NO. 8 EDMONDSON 46
Edmondson - Sherrod 13, Dantzler 10, Foster 9, Jackson 9, Brown 5. Totals 18 4-8 46.
City - Parsons 19, Smith 9, Horton 8, Egbiremolen 7, Johnson 7, Alexander 3. Totals 20 7-9 52.
Edmondson 14 10 11 11 - 46
City 13 13 9 17 - 52