Reservoir Coach Michael Coughlan saw for himself how good Baltimore Polytechnic was in the first of Thursday’s Maryland 3A boys’ basketball semifinals. The upstart Gators, who finished third in Howard County, beat Thomas Johnson in the second semifinal to earn a spot in their first state final against the Engineers, but Coughlan knew Poly represented “a very tall task” in Saturday’s final at Xfinity Center.
The magic ran out for Reservoir in a 69-41 loss that secured a third straight Maryland state title for the Engineers, making them the first team to accomplish the feat at 3A.
“That’s just a phenomenal high school basketball team,” Coughlan said. “We knew we had our work cut out for us.”
Reservoir players sat stunned in the game’s final moments, towels draped over many of their heads. Poly held a substantial height advantage at every position and exploited it throughout, outrebounding the Gators, 54-38.
By the time Poly’s Brandon Murray threw down a windmill dunk in the fourth quarter, the outcome was long decided. The Engineers’ past two state titles had come by a total of three points in the title games. They removed the drama early Saturday, holding the Gators to just two points in the first quarter.
“Motivation to get three,” Coughlan said. “You could see it tonight.”
The Gators (18-9) struggled throughout to get shots in the paint, thwarted each time by lanky Engineers.
“We were getting in the lane, but you can’t finish against that size,” Coughlan said. “I knew we would have to hit shots to even have a chance, and we weren’t.”
The Gators made just one of 18 three-pointers.
Reservoir’s Josh Odunowo, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds, did his best to battle for rebounds and provide second-chance opportunities, a staple of his game all season. But the Engineers (22-5) overwhelmed the rest of the Reservoir lineup.
“I knew today was going to be my last high school game. Win or lose,” Odunowo said. “I had to give everything I had.”
The Gators became the 10th opponent to lose by 20 or more points to Poly.
“This was a tough loss for us to finish with, but once we get some time, I’m not going to think about this,” Coughlan said. “I’m going to think about all the good times that we had throughout the year. I’ll never forget this group.”