COLLEGE PARK — Early in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Maryland Class 3A boys’ title game, Baltimore Polytechnic built a comfortable 10-point lead. But with less than seven minutes left in regulation, their lead dwindled to one.
Despite blowing a double-digit lead in the final quarter, No. 10 Poly was able to hang on in the deciding minutes for their first state championship in school history after a 64-63 win over Potomac. Thanks to a couple of big shots from freshman Rahim Ali and clutch free throws from Temple commit De’Vondre Perry, the Engineers were able to do just enough to hold Potomac off in the final seconds.
Poly coach Sam Brand had been dreaming of this moment ever since he took the job at Poly.
“It was a win like the one we envisioned getting when we met seven years ago, so it was extra special in that way,” he said.
Following a 33-point performance in the semifinals, Poly senior De’Vondre Perry tallied 23 points to help pull his team past Potomac.
“I don’t know if you guys remember, but Dre had zero points in his sophomore year in our state playoff loss, and he is the best player in the state of Maryland right now,” Brand said. “There was not a person that could stand in his way on either end of the floor.”
Poly seemed to have full control of the first half of the game, going into halftime with a commanding 33-20 lead. At times it felt like the Engineers were going to run away with the game.
That changed in the second half, when Potomac chipped away at the lead. The Wolverines were able to claw their way back into this game as they took advantage of Poly’s poor offensive stretch in the third quarter. Potomac outscored Poly 16-10 in the third quarter.
“Coach just told us to play our game and not theirs” Potomac senior Christian Dyches said. “In the first half of the game, I think we were playing more of their game than ours and they were speeding us up.
With 2:16 left in the game, Potomac knotted the game at 55 after a layup. All control Poly seemed to have vanished.
After a floater by freshman Rahim Ali gave Poly the lead again, junior Demetrius Mims blocked Potomac at the rim for what seemed to be an open layup. A quick transition pass led Ali to an easy fast break layup, where Poly took a 4-point lead with less than two minutes to play.
“We lost the city championship off a play like that. I got the chase down block but no one was there to get it,” Perry said. “Working through it, they (teammates) know what to do and when it happens, our energy goes sky high.”
Potomac refused to let up. Poly led by four with five seconds left in the game when Gary Robertson of Potomac hit a 3-pointer.
In the end, the Engineers pointed to their team motto all season long as the reason they were able to come out with the victory.
“It says on the back of our warm-ups our family versus your team,” Brand said. “I love all three of these guys like I love my children.”
One of those three guys was Torrin Stephens. Stephens, a senior, made sure his last game was his best. Stephens finished with 16 points after shooting 70 percent from the field, and grabbed seven rebounds.
Whenever Potomac went on a run, Stephens had an answer with a contested layup or put back underneath.
“I had to step up to the plate,” Stephens said. “It was my last game and I had to give it my all. I just left it all on the floor, crashed the boards and finished.”
Poly was made up of 11 seniors, including Perry and Stephens. The leadership these seniors displayed throughout the entire season was a big part of why Poly was able to come out on top.
“We had a really tough schedule and had a lot of losses,” Perry said. “In the middle of the season we all had our head down and I just knew, I could see it then, that we were going to win it.”