The Dunbar boys basketball team was in unfamiliar territory midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday's Class 1A South region title game against visiting Forest Park, trailing by three points with another trip to the state tournament in the balance.
That's when the No. 3 Poets leaned on a couple of constants that have played big in the team's consistent success — experience and defense — to pull out a 62-54 win over the No. 13 Foresters.
Dunbar, two-time defending state champions, closed out the final 5:20 with a 19-8 run to seal the program's 18th state tournament appearance. The Poets (22-3) will try to bring home a record-tying 14th state championship beginning in Friday's semifinal round when they meet Pocomoke, a 91-90 winner over Kent County in the East region. Game time at Comcast Center in College Park is set for 3 p.m.
Allegany has the top mark with 14 state titles.
The Poets, also Baltimore City Division 1 champions, head to state play battle-tested after a fine effort from Forest Park, which captured Baltimore City's Division 2 title earlier in the season and finished 18-4.
Senior forward Aaron Parham scored two key inside baskets in the closing minutes and finished with a team-high 15 points. Fellow seniors Evan Singletary and Gavin Pettiford each scored 11, and sophomore guard Keandre Gibson went 4-for-4 from the foul line in the closing minutes.
"We're happy to be going back to Comcast. Our guys fought really hard and our experience took over in the end. We've been there before, and I thought that was the big difference along with our defense," Dunbar coach Cyrus Jones said.
Forest Park senior DeAnthony McCormick finished with a game-high 17 points, while Rysheed Corbin had 10 in the setback.
Class 4A East
North Point 72, No. 8 Arundel 52: The defending state champion Eagles from Charles County got 24 points from point guard Marquis Wright and used their press defense to build an early lead to get past the host Wildcats, who finish the season with a 24-2 mark.
Despite trailing 37-19 at the half and by 22 in the third quarter, the Wildcats went on a 12-0 run with five minutes left in the fourth quarter before falling. Anthony Frazier led Arundel with 10 points, while David Nicholson closed out a fine three-year career with eight.
The Wildcats, who claimed Anne Arundel and District V titles, set a program mark for wins in a season.
Class 3A East
No. 15 Centennial 76, Annapolis 73, OT: Trailing 43-25 entering the fourth quarter, the Panthers, led by Jourdan Stickler with a game-high 39 points, rallied to tie the game at 65 and send it into overtime. Juan Brown's 3-pointer with three seconds left in regulation was the game-tying shot.
To start overtime, Centennial's Omari Ringgold scored five straight points, and the Eagles never trailed the rest of the way. Seven of Ringgold's 13 points came in the extra period.
Much of the Panthers' comeback was engineered by Stickler, whose 21 fourth-quarter points included six 3-pointers.
Keonte Potts led the Eagles with 32 points.
Centennial's largest lead of the game was 41-16 with 4:33 remaining in the third quarter.
Centennial will play Thomas Stone, a 79-63 winner over Potomac, at 3 p.m., Thursday, at Comcast Center in a state semifinal game.
—Carol Gralia, Columbia Flier
Class 1A North
New Town 62, Western Tech 57: Jalen Clarke scored 27 points and Danny Shand added 13 points and nine rebounds as the Titans (19-6) upended the Wolverines (17-6).
Andre Jackson (23 points, 10 rebounds) led the host Wolverines, who were making their first appearance in a regional championship game.
Baltimore Sun reporters contributed to this article.