In what may have been its last game against a nationally ranked opponent this season, Dunbar, the area's and the nation's No. 1 team, held off No. 3 St. Anthony of Jersey City, N.J., 50-49, last night before a sellout crowd of 4,553 in the Charm City Classic at Towson State.
Dunbar extended its win streak to 39, while St. Anthony's win streak ended at 40. The loss also denied St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley his 500th career victory. Dunbar improved to 17-0, and St. Anthony dropped to 11-1.
St. Anthony and Dunbar had last met in December 1990, and the Poets beat the Friars one week after losing to them. Both teams started their win streaks after those losses.
The Poets' win over St. Anthony was their ninth this season over a team ranked in USA Today's Super 25.
St. Anthony rallied from a nine-point, second-half deficit to get within 48-47 with 28 seconds left on two free throws by Halim Abdullah.
But Donta Bright made two free throws with 19 seconds left to give Dunbar a 50-47 lead. Rodrick Rhodes hit a jumper with three seconds left to account for the final score.
Bright, who scored 22, did a superb job of defensing Rhodes (22 points) on the final possession. Rhodes wanted the three-point attempt, but Bright stepped up to the three-point line and denied him. Rhodes settled for a drive inside for a short jumper, and the Poets let the clock run out.
"I knew it was coming to him," said Bright. "I didn't want him to shoot the three so I stayed up on him and forced him inside."
Dunbar did not turn in a sterling offensive performance (20 of 52 from the field) against a tough St. Anthony defense, but the Poets were also solid on defense. They limited St. Anthony to 31.5 percent shooting in the second half (six of 19). For the game, the Poets had nine steals and forced 24 turnovers.
"We knew if we came out and played good defense, good things would happen, and it did tonight," said Bright.
The Poets could not shut down Rhodes, an All-American, but did a good job of containing the versatile 6-foot-7 forward. He scored six points in the final quarter.
"We had to contain Rodrick," said Bright, who picked up two early fouls guarding Rhodes. "We had to play good man-to-man on the four supporting players."
The Poets did. Rhodes made eight of 14 shots, but the rest of the Friars were a combined nine of 28 from the field.
"We thought our frontcourt would do well," said Hurley. "They played for a half and then they got tired."
The Friars also did not get much production from their backcourt. With the Poets' Michael Lloyd, Paul Banks and Cyrus Jones applying tough defense, St. Anthony starting guards Abdullah and Michael Goines combined for two shot attempts and four points.
"In a big game, certain guys step up and certain guys get nervous," said Hurley. "These are guys who are varsity players for the first time, and they got a little nervous."
The Poets led nearly the entire game. They took the lead for good after Rhodes sparked a 6-0 St. Anthony run midway through the second quarter with five points to put the Friars ahead, 26-22.
But the Poets answered with a 9-0 run, as Bright scored five, to build a 31-26 lead. The Poets went would not trail again and led at the half, 31-28.
During that run, Dunbar turned up the defensive pressure, forcing two turnovers. The Friars were 0-for-4 from the field during that span.
Bright led Dunbar in the first half with 11 points Michael Lloyd had seven. Rhodes paced St. Anthony with 11, Roshown McLeod had 10 and Roberts added seven.
St. Anthony hit 12 of 23 field goals and out-rebounded the Poets, 19-16. Dunbar made 14 of 33 shots and committed four turnovers, compared with 11 for St. Anthony.