The Dunbar boys basketball team has had its share of success at the state level in recent years, winning the past two Class 1A titles and making regular visits to Comcast Center.
But the No. 7 Poets, once the dominant player in Baltimore City year after year after year, have been hankering to again become kings in their own backyard.
With a balanced offensive performance and relentless team defense that typified their season, the Poets knocked off defending champion and No. 2 Patterson, 65-61, on Tuesday to capture Baltimore City's Division 1 championship at packed Hill Field House at Morgan State.
Senior guard Rodrick Harrison hit five of six 3-point attempts to lead the way with 18 points. Senior guard Evan Singletary added 16, senior forward Aaron Parham had 13 and senior guard Donte Pretlow finished with 10.
Taking the lead for good in the closing minutes of the first quarter, the Poets stayed a step ahead of the Clippers the rest of the way. While their foul shooting in the closing minute kept the game close — they missed eight of 10 in the final 45 seconds to keep the Clippers withing striking distance — their defense didn't fail them.
It's the second time the Poets have defeated Patterson this season — they beat the then-No. 1 Clippers, 64-55, at Dunbar on Jan. 13. In that win, the Poets became the first Baltimore team to beat Patterson since the 2009-10 season. This win — with the stakes higher — was much sweeter. It's believed to be the first Baltimore City championship for Dunbar since 2004.
"It feels good because a lot of people didn't think we could do it — they thought the first time [against Patterson] was a fluke," Parham said. "But we proved them wrong. We just came out and played hard and played together and played great defense. Our defense is always the key for us — that's what wins us games."
The Poets improve to 17-3 this season as they begin their quest for a third straight state championship in regional play early next week. Patterson, which got a game-high 24 points from junior guard Aquille Carr, falls to 15-7 as it prepares for the Class 3A state playoffs.
"It's been somewhat of a roller-coaster season. We started out real well and then hit a wall. But the kids hung in there, continued to fight and continued to work hard in practice," Dunbar coach Cyrus Jones said. "One of our goals was to win the Baltimore City championship, and the other is a state title, so we got the first one. And to go up against the defending champion, who else better to play against?"
Harrison stole the show early with pinpoint shooting from behind the 3-point line. He made all four of his attempts in the first quarter, and his fifth early in the second quarter was part of a 9-0 run that gave the Poets a 28-19 lead with 4:33 left in the half.
But Patterson would answer behind a 3-point play from Myrek Lee-Fowlkes and six points from Carr to cut the Poets' advantage to 34-30 at the break.
After Patterson senior center Leonard Livingston jammed home a lob pass from Carr to tie the game at 34 with 7:22 to play in the third quarter, the Poets methodically responded.
Singletary made a 3-point play and senior forward Gavin Pettiford added an inside basket to claim a 39-34 lead. The lead would grow to 52-43 when junior forward Wilbur Young scored in the final minute of the third quarter, and Patterson would get within three points on only two occasions in the fourth quarter.
No. 13 Forest Park 68, Southwestern 61: Senior guard DeAnthony McCormick scored a game-high 33 points and junior forward Anton Waters scored 10 of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Foresters to the title.
The Foresters held double-digit leads in each of the first three quarters only to see the Sabers continually rally, cutting the lead to two points in the third quarter and getting it down to one twice in the fourth quarter. But Forest Park constantly answered to pull out the win.
Southwestern got 15 points from senior guard Willie McDowell, and junior guard Juwan Harrell and senior center Malcolm Miller each finished with 13.
7 Dunbar 65, 2 Patterson 61
P—Brown 4, Hebron 14, Carr 24 , Manns 4, Lee-Fowlkes 11, Livingston 4. Totals: 23 14-22 61.
D—Parham 13, Harrison 18, Singletary 16, Pretlow 10, Brown 2, Pettiford 2, Young 4 . Totals: 20 20-36 65.
Half: D, 34-30.
13 Forest Park 68, Southwestern 61
FP—McCormick 33, Waters 11, Corbin 5, Hill 6, Hailey 6, James 5, Bennett 2. Total: 68.
S—McDowell 15, Harrell, 13, Miller 13, Hood 5, Watson 4, Fields 6, Divers 5. Total: 61.
Half: FP, 30-21.