If the Edmondson boys’ basketball team wants to make it back to College Park’s XFINITY Center for its fourth state title game in six years this March, two factors will likely decide those aspirations: Teon Gardner’s production and this last month of the regular season.
Gardner is the lone returning starter from a 20-6 team that fell short to Fairmont Heights in the Class 1A title game last season, and Coach Darnell Dantzler isn’t shy about his expectations. The Red Storm’s 12-man roster also comprises of seven underclassmen, with Gardner’s backcourt mate Antonio Figgins experiencing his first varsity season as a sophomore.
On Friday night, Edmondson slipped to 4-3 after a two-point loss to Oxon Hill, but responded on Saturday with what Dantzler termed as an “A-plus effort,” as the Red Storm overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat Milford Mill, 53-50, in the Baltimore City Public Schools Basketball Academy at Morgan State University’s Hill Field House.
Gardner did just about everything asked of him, finishing with a team-high 18 points, spearheading a disruptive press and zone defense, and then topping it off with the game-clinching free throws with 3.6 seconds left.
“That’s what I need him to do,” Dantzler said. “He’s been doing real well. He had a real good game on both ends of the floor, and that’s what I told him. I need him to play like more often. He needs to be a leader. Not only is he our leader on the football field as the quarterback, but I need him to be that leader on the basketball court as well. He stepped up and played well today.”
Edmondson started in a 1-2-2 zone defense and also used the formation in a press, which flustered Milford Mill in the early minutes. The Millers’ missed their first three shots and turned it over three times in their opening six possessions.
The Red Storm also used a 2-2-1 zone press and implemented a half-court trap out of the halftime break in which they trailed, 34-24. Jordan Goodwin scored 11 points in the first quarter for Milford Mill, but only managed eight the rest of the way. He still finished with a game-high of 19.
Jalen Parker gets the put-back attempt to fall as No. 23 Milford Mill leads Edmondson 34-24 at the break. Millers started the frame on an 11-0 run. pic.twitter.com/n9daHsl7Yk
— Kyle McFadden (@k_fadd) January 13, 2018
The Red Storm started the comeback with a 6-0 spurt to open the second half, backended by a Barry Jones layup in traffic, which cut the Millers’ lead to 34-30.
Gardner then upstarted an 11-3 run to conclude the third quarter with a deep 3 from the left wing, making it 37-33 and putting Edmondson ahead, 41-40. The 6-foot-3 junior guard then nailed an elbow jumper to tie it at 39-39 and Figgins put Edmondson ahead going into the fourth with a mid-range of his own, 41-40.
Then, when the Millers continued to lurk, Gardner and Figgins (seven points) came through with clutch baskets and free throws.
In the first half, Milford Mill knocked down five 3s, but failed to hit a trey in the final two quarters. Keith Bolden and DeShawn Ruffin added 12 and seven points for the Red Storm, respectively.
“The press pretty much slowed them down,” Dantzler said. “They were shooting the ball well in the first half. So, at halftime we made a couple of adjustments and it came out the way we wanted. We changed it to a trap, got a couple steals and slowed them down.”
Dantzler guided the Red Storm to a Class 2A title in 2013 and then a Class 1A title in 2014. Last year, Edmondson led Fairmont Heights by two at halftime, but a cold second half in which it shot 27.6 percent from the floor (8-for-29), including a 2-for-11 from deep in the fourth quarter, sent another ring down the drain. In that 65-52 loss, Gardner put up a team-high 18 points on 4-for-7 from deep. He also played the most (32 minutes) out of anyone on his team that game. In the 59-52 semifinal win over Allegany, Gardner posted 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists. In those two games, Gardner played the most minutes (30.0 average) on his team and will look to use his experience to guide this group back to glory.
“Everybody got heart. Everybody play hard,” Gardner said. “I think this team is better. We’re young, but this team got a lot of heart.”
The Red Storm, moved up to the Class 2A North Section I this year, are now 5-3, with wins against Southwestern, Green Street Academy, Atholton, City College and now Milford Mill. Their only three setbacks are a 13-point loss to Lake Clifton, which is in the 2A North Section II, St. Joe’s (N.Y.) and Oxon Hill, a 3A South team from Prince George’s County.
Marquee games against ranked Poly and Patterson, which is also in the Class 2A North, await in the final month of the regular season.
“We have growing pains. They’re going to look well like they did today, and they’re going to make mistakes as well,” Dantzler said. “I’ll give them an A-plus on this one. I’m just happy that we can out come through adversity after a tough loss yesterday. And for them to come back and play well against a well-coached Milford team, my hat goes off to the kids, and that’s exactly what I told them after the game.”