Top-ranked Dunbar High capped off its best season under coach Pete Pompey by running away from No. 3 Southern, 81-62, in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference championship game last night in the Metro Classic at the Baltimore Arena.
The Poets (27-1) survived a third-quarter rally by Southern in which the Bulldogs (17-6) erased a 17-point halftime deficit and took a brief one-point lead.
But with senior guard Terrance Alexander (24 points) and junior center Donta Bright (21 points) leading the way, the Poets quickly regained the lead and began to pull away.
"The key was we kept our composure and everybody stayed together," said Alexander, who was voted the game's most valuable player.
"This was the one we always wanted," said junior guard Michael Lloyd, who led the Poets with 28 points. "We won all the other out-of-town tournaments, but deep inside, everybody wanted to win the Metro Classic to show everybody this was our town."
Last year, Southern knocked the Poets off their pedestal, beating Dunbar for the A Conference crown in the Metro Classic. The Poets beat Southern, 81-47, in January, but edged them, 59-55, last Sunday in the Public CSchools Tournament championship game, leaving some doubt heading into yesterday's game.
The game, which drew a crowd estimated at 6,000, included what both coaches called poor officiating. Southern coach Meredith Smith, who has had an ongoing battle with officials all season, was upset with calls throughout the game and voiced his displeasure afterward.
"One team can't play if the other team can be physical and it can't," said Smith, who was so frustrated that he walked off the court immediately after the final buzzer sounded, but did return to participate in the awards ceremony. "Dunbar is a really good team. Not to say that we would have beaten them, but we would have had a chance and it may have been a better ball game, not only for us and the them but for the spectators."
But Pompey, who won his second A Conference title in four years at Dunbar, said he did not believe the officiating was much of a factor.
"The kids have done an outstanding job all year and I'm certainly not going to listen to what he [Smith] says or anybody else said about officials and take away from a hard-earned victory that these kids earned after going out in the second half and playing soft and letting them come back then pulling away," said Pompey. "That showed a lot of character for us."
Dunbar built a 40-23 halftime lead by outscoring Southern 27-10 in the second quarter. But Southern used a 17-2 run in the third quarter to take a 47-46 lead with 1 minute, 45 seconds left on a three-pointer by Kwame Evans (26 points).
But Dunbar answered with a 7-2 run for the remainder of the quarter to take a 53-49 lead at the end of three quarters. Alexander scored five of the Poets' last seven points.
With Southern trailing, 56-51, Alexander scored four more early in the fourth quarter to spark a 9-1 run as Dunbar built a 65-52 lead. Southern never got the Poets' lead under 11 the rest of the way.