The No. 3 Dunbar boys basketball team overcame the absence of two key players, as well as a slow-down philosophy from No. 15 Patterson in Friday's showdown between two defending state champions.
In the end, the visiting Poets were able to overcome a 10-point third-quarter deficit with pestering defense, key shots and success at the free-throw line to leave with a 47-45 win over the Clippers.
The final seconds of the game summed up the second-half comeback from Dunbar, who was without standout guard Daxter Miles and key reserve Keshawn Hampton. Both players were serving an automatic one-game suspension after being ejected in the Poets' previous game.
With 21 seconds remaining and the game tied at 45, Dunbar didn't allow the Clippers to get settled into their offense.
Poets junior guard Anthony Brown alertly deflected a pass intended to go inside, chased the ball down at midcourt and was fouled going to the basket with 3.8 seconds left. Brown calmly sank his two free throws, finishing with a team-high 14 points, and after a desperation heave from Patterson's Tyquan Pointer in the right corner was off the mark, the Poets had earned the win.
"Mental toughness is what we stress," Dunbar coach Cyrus Jones Sr. said. "In the beginning of the game, we knew it was going to be a tough battle. Losing our key player, Dax, and also one of our key reserve defenders, everybody just fought."
Dunbar, the three-time defending Class 1A and Baltimore City champion, improves to 8-1 on the season, while Patterson, the Class 3A champion last year, falls to 8-2. The game was a rematch of last year's Baltimore City Division I championship, but neither team has any returning players from that game.
The Poets were out of sync offensively as Patterson stalled with the ball for the first 5:39 of the second quarter in a 17-17 tie. The Clippers also played a box-and-one defense to limit Dunbar guard Kamau Stokes (eight points) for most of the game, taking a 30-20 lead when Devante Conyers hit a 3-pointer with 4:23 to play in the third quarter.
But Dunbar found the answers it needed to win.
Poets junior guard Montaque Wright hit two 3-pointers and scored all nine of his points in the second half. Junior center Travis Buchanon was active inside, hitting two free throws and adding another basket, and Brown took over in the final two minutes.
With 1:47 to play, Brown spun to the baseline and scored on a runner to give the Poets a 45-44 lead. Then he had the big steal and two free throws as Dunbar ended the game going 17-for-23 from the line.
"The first half, we did terrible, but we stepped up in the second half — everybody came out and played and wanted it," Brown said.
Despite the tough loss, Patterson coach Harry Martin saw plenty of positives in the effort.
The Clippers hit only five of 14 free throws and had two possessions with the game tied in the last minute, but had trouble executing on offense.
Kwynten Brooks, who was forced to the bench with foul trouble when the Poets made their run late in the third quarter, led the Clippers with 14 points. Dereck Oliver and Conyers each had eight for Patterson
"We're dealing with a lot of young guys … that have to understand how to handle that pressure. We're a little dejected right now, but I think we gave them the game in terms of the number of free throws we missed and number of layups we missed," Martin said. "But it was a good effort for us — a good battle, 47-45."
3 Dunbar 47, 15 Patterson 45
D –Gibson 8, Stokes 8, Brown 14, Wright 9, Buchanon 4, McNair 2, Young 2 . Totals: 14 17-23 47.
P – Brooks 14, Oliver 8, Conyers 8, Woods 4, Straham 4, Bass 5, Dandridge 2. Totals: 18 5-14 45.
Half: P, 20-18