At the start of the season, the Digital Harbor boys basketball team had a roster filled with new and promising talent — enough for the Rams to be considered among the area's top five teams.
But they had to work through a regular season that had as many downs as ups, struggling to jell. They have finally found their way — making playoff time their time.
Behind 26 points from guard Daquan Cook, 23 from forward Antonio Manns and a 33-for-49 performance from the free-throw line — they made 13 straight at one point in the second half — the Rams came away with an 80-55 upset win over No. 7 Edmondson to capture the Class 2A North regional championship at Morgan State.
Digital Harbor (14-7), which won the Class 1A state crown in 2009, will head to Comcast Center to meet 2A South regional champion Gwynn Park in a state semifinal set for 7 p.m. Friday.
"We started off wrong, but we've come together at the end of the season, and we really wanted this game," Manns said. "We really want a ring, want a state championship and we lost to these guys the past two seasons, so we wanted to make a statement."
Just how far have the Rams come?
On Dec. 21, on their home court, they lost to Edmondson, 83-66.
This time, the Rams built a 27-16 lead late in the second quarter behind Mann's 12 first-half points, and every time the Red Storm made a run — three times cutting the lead to four points in the third quarter — they had plenty of answers.
Most were found at the free-throw line, where Digital Harbor hit 13 straight at one point after comfortably handling the Red Storm's press. Cook hit 10 straight on his own.
Edmondson, which finished the season with a 16-4 mark, couldn't match the high level of play it used to get past two-time state champ City in Wednesday's semifinal.
The Red Storm got 15 points from four-year varsity player Rodney Pratcher, with fellow senior guard Kavon Pyatt adding 14.
DH—Cook 26, N.Manns 7, Smith 14, A.Manns 23, Epps 3, Wlliams 2, Lloyd 2, Conyers 3. Totals: 21 33-49 80.
E—Ellison 6, Bradley 10, Ro.Pratcher 15, Pyatt 14, Graham 8, Johnson 2. Totals: 22 7-10 55.
Half: DH, 27-21.