It was just two weeks ago that the Dunbar boys basketball team finally settled on its starting lineup.
All the while, the No. 3 Poets, defending Baltimore City and three-time Class 1A state champions, have found different ways to win.
On the road against No. 8 Poly in a showdown of unbeaten league teams, Dunbar mostly relied on a tough zone defense and poised play in the closing minutes for a 55-43 victory.
Senior guards Daxter Miles (15 points) and Kamau Stokes (12) led the offense, and the defensive scheme frustrated the Engineers most of the way.
The Poets improved to 11-1 overall and 5-0 in Baltimore City's Division I, while Poly, which got a game-high 19 points from forward Darrion Stokes-Graham, is now 11-3 and 4-1 in league play.
Dunbar held Engineers standout junior guard John Crosby to just six points.
"It was a great win. Another tough Baltimore City battle, they played us great all the way through with some big defensive stops," Dunbar coach Cyrus Jones Sr. "We held a Baltimore City team to  points. What can you say? That's basically defense and that's what we preach. We want our defense to create our offense. So as long as we can play defense — we might not shoot the ball well every night — but our defense should always be there."
The Poets opened the second quarter on a 15-2 run that turned a tie game into a 30-17 advantage after Miles ended it with a 3-pointer with 1:45 left in the half.
But the Engineers, behind Stokes-Graham's success beyond the arc, made things interesting in the second half.
His second straight 3-pointer at the start of the fourth quarter pulled the Engineers within 41-38 with 5:43 left, but the Poets responded with the game's next five points — a follow dunk from junior forward Trevis Buchanon providing a reassuring boost — to restore order. Dunbar guard Keandre Gibson hit four straight free throws in the closing minutes to help seal the win.
"They were able to cut it to three and our defense was lacking for a bit, but we were able to pick it back up. Defense is the main key in us winning. We come together, we play defense and we get the win," Stokes said.
3 Dunbar 55, 8 Poly 43
D – Miles 15, Stokes 12, Smith 8, Brown 7, Gibson 8, Young 2, Buchanon 3. Totals: 18 15-29 55.
P – Kelly 6, Shaw 6, Crosby 6, Stokes-Graham 19, White 6. Totals: 16 5-13 43.
Half: D, 31-22.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun