by Brandon Hopp
The atmosphere in the gym of Baltimore City College High was electric Friday afternoon; it was as close to a major Division I college game as high school basketball can get. City College’s pep band played as the teams entered the hot gym, which was packed to capacity with little standing room available.
Whenever these two schools, which are just one half of a mile apart, get together it is guarenteed to be a good game. Last season, in the Class 3A North Regional final, Mervo outlasted City to advance to the University of Maryland and the state Final Four.
It took two overtimes before visiting No. 15 Mervo came out with a 65-64 upset victory over No. 4 City College on a running shot by senior point guard Donta Drake as time expired.
“I’m a point guard, so usually I don’t take big shots,” Drake said after winning the game for his team in a heated battle. “I was about to pass it but I said let me take it.”
Both teams had their chances to claim the game in regulation.
With 35 seconds left in regulation, sophomore point guard Nate Ayres hit a three-pointer for the Knights (10-2) to put them ahead 53-51. On the inbounds play by the Mustangs (11-3), senior forward Byron Westmoreland, who scored a game-high 25 points, dribbled the ball off of his leg and out of bounds, giving the ball back to City.
On the ensuing inbounds play for the Knights, the ball was stolen from sophomore guard C.J. Fair by junior forward Marcus Miller, who took the ball to the rim and dunked it to the tie the game at 53-53 with 16 seconds left in the regulation.
City couldn’t score in the closing seconds and the game headed into the first overtime.
Westmoreland was fouled on a drive to the rim and made one-of-two free throw attempts to put Mervo ahead 56-55 with 1:39 left in the first overtime. The Knights responded when junior forward Adam Johnson, who appeared to twist an ankle later in the game, was fouled after grabbing a rebound. Johnson made one-of-two attempts and tied the contest at 56-56.
Senior foward Jamal Ramsey had a chance to win the game for the Mustangs but missed a jumper at the buzzer and the game was forced into another extra four minute period.
In the second overtime, City jumped out to a 60-56 lead with two minutes after Johnson made a lay up and senior center James Carmon calmly sank two free throws.
But Mervo didn’t give up being down four points, junior forward Tyrone Smoothers hit a jumper to cut the lead to two points. Junior guard Quentin Goodwin made one-of-two free throw attempts to put the home team Knights ahead 62-60.
That is when Drake, who is a pass-first, shoot second point guard, put the Mustangs on his shoulders. Drake made a three pointer with 35 seconds left to put Mervo ahead 63-62. The Mustangs, who were well represented in City’s gym, went wild.
City responded with Carmon, who with 3.2 seconds left was fouled on a shot. The six foot seven inch center sank both free throw attempts and gave the Knights a 64-63 advantage.
“I was thinking in my head, I have to make these [free throws] for my team to win,” said Carmon.
“We thought the game was over when [Carmon] hit the two foul shots,” said City head coach Mike Daniel. “Everytime we play them, it’s a war.”
But Drake wasn’t done with the last second heroics. He ran the length of the court after receiving the ball on the inbound pass and as time expired, he left through up the shot and it found the bottom of the net.
Drake left his feet, looking for someone to pass the ball to. With no one available and time running out, he made the shot and gave his Mustangs the upset victory.
“Our motto is ride or die,” said Drake, who was mobbed by his teammates after hitting the game-winning shot. “So if I made it, we’d ride, if I missed, we’d lose.”
“This was a big win, we needed that.”
Mervo lost last week to then unranked Parkville 46-42 at the 12th annual Basketball Academy held at Morgan State University but turned the tables and pulled the upset over City.
“[The atmosphere] is hot. You’re talking City/Mervo, less than two or three blocks away. School was closed and all these kids [from Mervo] came out,” said Mervo head coach Daryl Wade, who coached City in the late 90’s. “It’s a good atmosphere for the kids to play in to get ready for the playoffs…It was a big win overall, a good win for the kids.”
No. 15 Mervo 65, No. 4 City 64, 2 OT
Mervo 15 12 13 13 3 9 — 65
City 9 15 17 12 3 8 — 64
M–Westmoreland 25, Smoothers 17, Miller 9, Drake 8, Ramsey 4, Knox 2. Totals: 21 19-29 65.
C–Johnson 19, Carmon 12, Fair 16, Ayres 10, Goodwin 5, Latham 2. Totals: 19 23-38 64.
Half–Mervo 27, City 24.