City boys basketball team’s bid for perfection remains intact. Barely.
The No. 3 Knights got a scare from Poly, which led in the second half. City was able to recover and remain undefeated with a 67-59 victory over the 12th-ranked Engineers in the Class 3A North Region I title game in front of a capacity audience in Northeast Baltimore.
Senior forward Cam Horton recorded 25 points and 14 points and Kyree Smith added 17 for the Knights (25-0 overall). Rashid McLeod finished with a game-high 26 points for Poly (21-3).
City produced several crucial late defensive sequences to weather a resilient Engineer effort to win its second straight region championship. The city champ Knights will host Centennial in a state quarterfinal Saturday afternoon at 4 for a spot in next week’s state Final Four.
“We knew they weren’t going to just lay down and give us the win so we know we wanted to keep following our principles, keep following the fundamentals of the game of basketball,” said Horton, who scored nearly half of his points from the free throw line. “Playing defense is the biggest key to winning this game… they have m really good players so we wanted to shut down some of their key guys and stay focused and do what we had to do to win this game. That’s what we did today.”
Paced by Kwon Johnson and Smith, City forced turnovers and pushed the ball in transition to jump out to a 22-4 lead after the first quarter. It looked like it was going to be a repeat of team’s first meeting back in December - an 86-63 romp by the Knights.
But Poly had other ideas. After forcing uncharacteristic turnovers and finding other ways to either slow down or disrupt City’s offense, Poly began the second quarter on an 8-0 run, part of a 22-8 second to trim its deficit to 30-26 at intermission.
Poly’s momentum continued into the start of the second half, opening the third quarter with another 8-0 scoring run that gave the team its first lead of the night, 34-30, with 6 minutes remaining in the third. The Engineers pulled even att 44 before Trent Egbiremolen’s 3 free throws regained the lead for City.
The Knights stretched their lead to 62-53 in the final minute after two free throws by Horton. The Engineers were unable to mount a late-game rally as City held them to one field goal in the final three minutes.
“We were a little sluggish, a little off our game but we found a way to regroup and get the win,” City coach Omarr Smith said. “We do things by committee and collectively, and that’s what got us the win.”
Smith added eight rebounds and three steals for City while Eli Kutcherman contributed 15 points for Poly, which lost twice to undefeated City and once to Edmondson, which reached the Baltimore City title game.
The Engineers, which had a coaching change before the start of preseason game, won just five games last year.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys...It was an excellent season,” said Poly coach Chris Cromartie, who coached both the varsity and junior varsity teams this season. “.I could ask for nothing more from my guys. The record speaks for itself… we just came up short tonight.”
CLASS 3A NORTH REGION I CHAMPIONSHIP
NO. 3 CITY 67, NO. 12 POLY 59
Poly: McLeod 26, Kutcherman 15, Chaz Fisher 6, Anthony Gaymon 4, Ziyan Gates 4, Marcus Matthews 2, Kenneth Estes 2. Totals: 20 16-19 59.
City: Horton 25, Smith 17, Johnson 8, Egbiremolen 8, Danny Parsons 5, Alexander 4. Totals: 22 22-36 67.
City 22 8 17 20 — 67
Poly 4 22 18 15 — 59