Baltimore City schools win three out of four MD state chips
COLLEGE PARK—The MPSSAA boys basketball State champions have been crowned. The winners, Eleanor Roosevelt, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Patterson, and Lake Clifton triumphed through battle-tested seasons in their respective counties and each capped a 2019 campaign toting bragging rights and raising trophies at University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center.
There are four amateur athletic classes in the state of Maryland, in which schools are divided into based on enrollment. For the 1A crown, Baltimore City’s Lake Clifton Lakers (24-4) beat the Southern Garrett Rams (21-3) by the score of 64-46. Armon Harried, son of Lake Clifton’s famed head coach, Herman “Tree” Harried, dominated at Xfinity averaging 31 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.
“I had to score for us to win,” said the younger Harried, humbling any urge to gloat. “It wasn’t about me trying to fulfill a goal.”
Along with Harried’s output, junior point guard Michael Gray finished with 22 points. Together, they scored 57 of the Lakers’ 64 points. Gray has been a standout for some time now, and he will look to lead Patterson through Baltimore’s inner city gauntlet next year.
Sitting with his son to his left, Coach Harried spoke proudly of Armon’s growth at Lake Clifton.
“He’s learned how to walk in [Lake Clifton's] gym, he’s learned how to talk in that gym, he’s learned how to ride his bike in that gym…it’s not a gym to him—it’s a home.”
With the 1A banner on its way to Patterson, Coach Tree became the first coach for an MPSSAA school to win state titles in each class. Harried’s storied coaching career began in 1995, and along the way to six state championships he’s enjoyed winters accruing over 400 wins (with a.775 win %) and summers with USA Basketball men’s junior teams.
Senior Tyler Rodeheaver led Southern Garrett with 14 points and five boards.
The Patterson Clippers, who are the #1 team in the final Baltimore Sun poll, also trudged through that Baltimore City civil war to win a state title. A 79-56 win over the Wicomico Indians captured a 2A title for the Clippers(25-3), led by senior standouts Marvin Price (31 points, 10 rebounds) and Gerard Mungo (12 points, seven assists, seven rebounds).
Sophomore Wicomico (24-4) forward Jayson Handy had 14 points, and will star alongside all-conference junior Jaden Baker for next year’s run.
In their semi-final, Howard County’s East Reservoir Gators entered the fourth quarter with a tied score. What ensued was a winning quarter that could barely be savored, for their next opponent would be emerging powerhouse Baltimore Polytechnic. Today, Maryland’s most dominant program is the two-time defending state champs, Poly Engineers.
Polly had a young team last year, with key starters in junior Justin Lewis, junior Rahim Ali and senior Amani Walker helping to lift the 2018 3A banner. The following summer, the rich got richer, as Poly (22-5) added more talent in junior transfer Brandon Murray. With his help, the Engineers never saw a deficit in their 69-41 dub over Reservoir (18-9).
Bringing home a third crown in as many years, Poly placed themselves in an air of excellence and immortality. Like Harried, head coach Sam Brand is a jedi master of Baltimore basketball. Brand inherited his alma mater nine years ago, as it struggled to compete with the area’s finest. Now, he runs a program that produces humility like Sunday school but can boast more championship jewelry than losing seasons.
As he swallowed his tears, Coach Brand considered defense as he spoke about his team’s journey. A late adjustment at St. John’s (DC) from man-to-man to zone, deliberate choices to go zone versus St. Frances Academy and man pressure in their regional final all contributed to the Engineers’ run.
“We really felt like we had a group of guys [who] were capable of beating anybody and doing it in different ways…it didn't matter what kind of game this turned into, we were going to make it our game.”
Murray led the way for Poly with 17 points and added nine rebounds. Lewis finished with eight points, ten rebounds and a game-high six assists. Their point guard had a very solid showing, as Ali dropped 16 points, five assists, six rebounds and no turnovers.
This year’s win served as a christening of Maryland’s newest high school dynasty. Now, Poly comes with more than that inner-city Baltimore rigidness; they have experience, a damn good coach, a growing trophy case and most paramount, the growing respect of neighboring basketball factories like Patterson, Dunbar and Lake Clifton.
“We took the time to build the right way,” said a purposive Brand. “So it ain’t going to come down easy.”
It was a collective effort. Poly, Patterson, Lake Clifton, last year’s Baltimore sweep, and 2017’s near-sweep -- they did this. Just open the state’s history books. No matter how big your school is or how close it is to our neighboring states, the road to a state crown must go through Baltimore.
Since 2017, of the 12 teams the Xfinity Center has hosted for state tournaments, ten of them are from Baltimore. The other two are from Prince George’s County. Two years ago, PG’s Fairmont Heights beat Baltimore City’s Edmondson HS for the 1A title. This year’s 4A semi-final matchup might have been the most entertaining of all the games.
North Dulaney is ranked ninth in the Baltimore Sun. Eleanor Roosevelt is number six in the Washington Post. Both areas are congested with winning private school programs, so on paper, this looked like an even matchup between two heavyweights. It ended up being one of the best games of the season.
The talent on the court shined brightly, as equal parity dangled torturing suspense. The Raiders came alive in the second quarter, as they acquainted the Lions to their scrappy defense and uptempo offense. Roose never trailed in the third, going up by as much as 15.
After taking a flimsy seven-point lead into the final quarter, Roosevelt succumbed to Dulaney’s talent. A 15-0 Lions’ run convinced the entire gym of Baltimore’s inevitable sweep of the tourney. There were three lead changes in the last minute of the game, with the deciding points coming from senior Isaiah Gross, as he sunk three free throws in with 15.8 seconds left in the game.
Gross was asked about his thought process before those free throws. He described a situational drill that was implemented for times like these. The score starts tied. When a player sinks a free throw, his team is rewarded the usual point, but if that player misses, his team is docked two points.
“I didn’t wanna lose the game,” said Gross, who’s headed to Coppin State in the fall. His coach then corrected the statement, joking, “he doesn’t like to run.”
With a stellar 25-point-14-rebound performance, senior forward Cameron Brown led his Raiders to the 4A title over Broadneck, 77-48. The Bruins (22-6) started hot, hitting five threes in the initial quarter, leading 21-18 after eight minutes. That didn’t exactly continue.
The second quarter featured that signature Roosevelt hustle and athleticism. Speaking of, Brown is a kid with supreme athleticism, and his degrading, body-snatching poster dunk in the first half took the air out of the gym and it never returned. Look for his future posters on CAA hardwood, as he graduates to William & Mary this upcoming year.
Fellow senior Kyle Rose, a point guard who can no-look pass a Denali through doorway, flashed brilliant dimes all game, dishing out ten assists. Rose remains unsigned, but that’ll be short-lived.
As a team spoiled with young Division I talent, it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing more of Dulaney in the coming years.
Private schools dominate the state’s amateur basketball scene, but in the gyms that star public school hoops, the city (and County) of Baltimore can stab a flag in the hardwood and claim a stake. Kids from Baltimore competed at Xfinity for a title in all four divisions. After all-but-sweeping each class for three straight years, Baltimore City Public Schools can once again claim the title of most competitive jurisdiction in our great state.
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