Last basketball season, Dunbar High and St. Anthony's High of New Jersey played two memorable games against each other. Forward Rodrick Rhodes led St. Anthony's to victory in the first meeting, but Donta Bright, Michael Lloyd and Keith Booth got revenge for the Poets less than two weeks later.
Now there's a possibility of Game 3.
Dunbar and St. Anthony's will be joined byBaltimore's Southern High and St. Raymond's High from the Bronx in the first Charm City Classic, which will be held Jan. 17 and 18 at the Towson Center.
"I remember the Beltway Classic in 1982, which had six players who were drafted into the NBA, and this could be the best tournament since then," said tournament director Bill Spotts.
In 1982, it was Reggie Williams, Reggie Lewis, Tyrone Bogues, Kurk Lee, Duane Ferrell and Danny Ferry who provided most of the thrills.Ten years later, highly touted seniors such as Bright, Lloyd and Rhodes, along with top-flight juniors Booth and 6-foot-9 shot blocker Damon Bonaparte from St. Raymond's, may give basketball fans something to remember.
"It's big in a sense it's in Baltimore," Poets coach Pete Pompey said yesterday at a news conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Towson announcing details of the tournament. "[Southerncoach JTC Meredith Smith] and I feel that since we are playing at home that we are representing Baltimore.
"We'd like to see the Baltimore folks come out and see the tournament. They deserve to see top-notch basketball. They see it locally, but this will give them an opportunity to see some of the other nationally ranked teams. It's just a tremendous opportunity."
St. Anthony's beat Dunbar, 58-57, in New Jersey, but the Poets avenged that with a 60-54 victory in the championship of the Gonzaga Classic at American University's Bender Arena.
St. Anthony's coach Bob Hurley, whose son Bobby helped lead Duke to the NCAA championship last season, said that his team became more motivated after the loss to Dunbar and didn't lose another game. He said he hopes his team will leave this tournament on the same kind of roll.
"I think when you've been around for a while, you like challenges," said Hurley by telephone from New Jersey. "I've been coaching for 20 years, and I enjoy playing good teams. They are the games you remember coaching in, and they are the games that the kids will remember.
"I think going into this situation is one where we are going to play two very tough games regardless of who our opponent is going to be. We wantto go down there and use this experience, so that at the end of the season, when we get into the state tournament, we will have a couple of games to look back on and say, 'Look at this and look at that.'
"I can use a very good example of all our tough games from having played [Dunbar] twice last year. Every time we played somebody last season, before the game I turned to the kids and asked, 'Now do you think this team is going to be as tough as Dunbar?' And the kids would be just there shaking their heads.
"I just said, 'Well, we hung with Dunbar twice, beat them in a very good win for us and lost to them in a very good game, so let's go out and get them.' We didn't lose a game the rest of the year, so I think this situation can only help us build for a very important part of the season, which is the state tournament."
Though Southern has two formidable players, 6-6 senior Kwame Evans and 6-8 junior Abdul Brown, it doesn't have the reputation of the other three teams. But Smith has a successful program and his players don't mind running and gunning.
"It's a great challenge, and I think we thrive on challenges," said Smith. "Of course, we have to get ready to play teams of that caliber, and we should be ready to meet the challenge."