The No. 11 Dunbar boys basketball team has come a long way since its one-point home loss to Lake Clifton in the Baltimore City league opener in mid-December.
More proof came in Friday's second meeting against the Lakers. The Poets took hold of the game in the second quarter and never let go with strong defense and timely baskets throughout, coming away with a 57-45 win that keeps them in second place in the city's Division 1 league.
The game was called with 39 seconds left to play after an altercation occurred on the baseline between fans and some Dunbar cheerleaders.
Dunbar is now 14-6 overall and 7-4 in league play with one game remaining against first-place Poly (17-3, 11-0) on Monday. Friday's win guarantees the Poets at least a tie for second place with No. 14 City, which finished 13-7 overall and 7-5 in the league. For Dunbar, a win against Poly would lock up an invitation to Wednesday's city championship game.
"We came out with a lot of effort and played a lot of team basketball. I think our guys took a major step of growing up, listening and it couldn't have come at a better time," Dunbar coach Cyrus Jones Sr. said.
Senior Tremaine Tazewell and sophomore Dashawn Phillips shared the offensive load for the Poets.
Tazewell scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half, opening the game with a 3-pointer and hitting another one with 3:12 to play in the second quarter to give the Poets a 23-13 lead.
Phillips scored 19 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, including the Poets' first 10 of the third quarter to help maintain a double-digit lead.
"We came out hard offensively and defensively, so that set the tone right there," Tazewell said. "We've grown as a team tremendously as a unit. We came in the beginning of the season kind of rusty, so now for us to make it this far, I'm proud."
The Lakers (11-9) got points from nine different players with sophomore reserve Ben Carter leading the way with nine. But they were never able to find a consistent flow to make a second-half run. Dunbar limited them to just three field goals in the third quarter.
"We played more team basketball and owed them from them beating us at our house," Phillips said. "Coach preaches defense, defense and defense, and that's what we did. We've showed a tremendous improvement — offense, defense, the whole nine."
The Baltimore City championship game is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, likely at Lake Clifton.
If Dunbar and City finish tied with 7-5 marks, the teams split head to head (the first tiebreaker), so it would come down to best overall regular-season record against Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association teams to decide who advances to the title game.
11 Dunbar 57, Lake Clifton 45
D – Tazewall 20, Phillips 21, Moore 7, Willis 5, Parham 2, Giles 2. Totals: 19 16-25 57
LC – Barney 4, Brown 7, Parker 6, Young 1, Thompson 5, Drake 8, Lucas 3, Dingle 2, Carter 9. Totals: 17 9-16 45
Half: D, 27-19