COLLEGE PARK — Dunbar scored the first 10 points and had several chances to turn Friday's Class 1A state semifinal against Pocomoke into a laugher. But the No. 1 Poets kept making mistakes.
They eventually wore down Pocomoke with their quickness and timely defense, winning 86-68 at the Comcast Center to reach Saturday's state final. But it was far from pretty.
"I'm happy we won," Dunbar coach Cyrus Jones said. "But I'm not happy with the way we played. We gave up way too many points ... and basically almost gave it away."
Donte Pretlow led the Poets (23-3) with 22 points. They will try for a third straight Class 1A championship at 1 p.m. game against New Town, a 75-72 winner over Smithsburg in the other semifinal.
A win would give Dunbar its 14th state title, tying Allegany for the most by any school in the state.
Pocomoke (22-4) couldn't handle the variety of presses and traps Dunbar used throughout Friday's game. The Poets had 12 steals and forced a total of 20 turnovers that they turned into 21 points. But Dunbar committed 17 turnovers of its own, which helped Pocomoke stay in the game.
The Poets nearly lost their early 10-0 lead and later watched the Warriors cut a 21-point third-quarter lead to nine in the final two minutes. Dunbar then locked up the game by scoring 12 of the final 15 points.
"We just didn't focus and try to close the game out," Jones said. "I think we were thinking that the game was practically over, and it was basically fun time."
All five Dunbar starters scored in double figures. That included Pretlow (who added eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals), Evan Singletary (13 points, 12 rebounds), Aaron Parham (16 points), Rodrick Harrison (15 points) and Gavin Pettiford (14 points).
Harrison made three 3-pointers in the third quarter to help Dunbar stretch its lead. But the offense kept struggling, and the defense bailed them out with some important plays.
"We were doing a whole lot of different things, different strategies [on defense]," Singletary said. "That saved us at the end."
Shawn Johnson scored a game-high 26 points for Pocomoke,which shot just 36 percent from the floor and made only 1 of 11 3-point shots.
"We're a defensive team," Pretlow said. "That's what got us to this point today."
D—Parham 16, Pettiford 14, Harrison 15, Pretlow 22, Singletary 13, Brown 3, Young 3. Totals: 32 16-24 86.
P—Savage 4, Dennis 8, Johnson 26, Pritchett 17, Williams 11, Jones 2. Totals: 24 19-29 68.
Half: D, 35-26.