Sweet finish for Lakers

boys basketball state class 3a final

No. 1 Lake Clifton goes undefeated with title win over Friendly, 75-50

March 15, 2009|By Glenn Graham | Glenn Graham,glenn.graham@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK -Back in mid-November, there was an impressive collection of talented basketball players who came together at Lake Clifton, both new and old to the program.

It took no time for the individuals to effectively merge into a team, playing as one from the very beginning of the season. And now - after 28 consecutive wins and the program's second state title under 12-year coach Herman "Tree" Harried - the No. 1 Lakers can call themselves special in a history-making way.

With its 75-50 win over Friendly in yesterday's Class 3A state championship game at Comcast Center, Lake Clifton became the third Baltimore team to complete an undefeated season since the city schools began competing in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association in the 1992-93 season. Southwestern was the first to accomplish the feat in 1996-97, and Douglass was the most recent in the 2001-02 season.

"This is a great group of young men," said Harried, a Dunbar graduate who played at Syracuse.

"They've done everything I've asked and more, and they are well deserving of this accomplishment. I'm very proud of them, extremely happy for them, and I'm going to miss them badly."

In defeating Friendly yesterday, the Lakers were everything they were all season: relentless on defense and smooth on offense with everybody contributing. Junior forward Will Barton led the way with 20 points and nine rebounds, senior forward Cleveland Melvin added 17 points, junior guard Antonio Barton finished with 16 and senior guard Jason Sharp had 12.

The Lakers shot 62 percent in the first half while limiting the Patriots (23-3) to seven field goals to lead 35-17 at the break.

"In the beginning of the season, we knew we could do it," said Will Barton, a transfer from National Christian Academy. "I came into Coach Tree's office in the beginning of the year when he first found out I was coming. ... I told him we were going to be a special team, we were going to win states. I just wanted to go undefeated because I knew we had a special group. ... We just had to come to practice and work hard, stay on our books and just play hard to see where we end up at the end of the season. You see where we're at - state champions, undefeated, 28-0, and we just made history."

In its 22-0 regular season, Lake Clifton stifled City for an early statement win on the road, showed resilience to supplant St. Frances from the No. 1 position with a come-from-behind win midway through and had a 19-point win at Walbrook down the stretch.

After limiting Digital Harbor to five second-half points to win their second straight Baltimore City title, 69-30, the Lakers showed poise in the closing seconds to shake off Milford Mill, 56-54, to capture the North region.

At Comcast this weekend, the Lakers overwhelmed the competition, starting with Thursday's 63-54 win over Seneca Valley in the semifinals.

The Lakers defeated St. Frances, which captured Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League crowns; Digital Harbor, which won the Class 1A title; Class 2A state finalist City; and Class 4A state semifinalist Walbrook.

How do the Lakers stack up with the Dunbar teams of generations ago and other great city teams?

"I'm a young guy, so I don't know about back in the day," Will Barton said. "I just know that the Dunbar teams were pretty good when they had all those national championships. ... But all I know is, present right now, I think we're the greatest team ever. We put in a lot of work, running with bricks, practicing for hours, and Coach Tree is hard on us. But it was all for the good, and to go 28-0 - what else do we need to do?"

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