Dunbar eases past Potomac


COLLEGE PARK -- No. 2-ranked Dunbar defeated Potomac (18-8), ranked No. 20 by the Washington Post, 84-71, in a state Class 2A semifinal game at Cole Field House last night.

Senior forward Rodney Elliott scored 18 points to lead the Poets.

Norman Nolan added 15. William Peters scored 20 to lead Potomac.

In tonight's state 2A title game, the Poets (22-3) will meet defending champion Allegany at 6. The Campers defeated No. 12 Edgewood, 63-60, in the other semifinal.

Dunbar, ranked No. 15 nationally by USA Today, joins No. 1 Southern-Baltimore (4A), Douglass (3A), Wilde Lake (1A) and Milford Mill (1A) in today's championship games.

In their first appearance in the state tournament last season, the Poets claimed the state 1A title, defeating Cambridge-South Dorchester.

The Braves of Prince George's County failed for the third consecutive time to win a state championship. They lost twice in the 3A finals to Catonsville (1992) and Southern-Baltimore (1993). Last night, they lost for the fourth time this season to a Baltimore City team.

"Potomac had a little mouth, but we played our game," said Elliott, who also had eight rebounds and three assists.

The Poets pulled away late in the third quarter and led by as many as 18 for the rest of the game. The closest Potomac got was within 10 in the final minute.

After Potomac pulled to within 50-45 with 2:33 left in the third quarter, Dunbar received a dunk and two free throws from Nolan and a layup by Eric McNeil to extend its lead to 56-45 with 1:12 left.

"We were looking to keep the game to the 55-60-point range," said Potomac coach Taft Hickman. "We figured that we could score 70, but we didn't want them in the 70-plus range."

Potomac gained an early 8-5 lead on a three-point play by Peters. The Poets forged back ahead at 11-8 on consecutive three-pointers by Elliott and Billy Wells.

The Braves came back with a 6-0 run of their own to take a 14-11 lead. Elliott scored four as the Poets scored nine of the final 11 to lead 20-16 after the first quarter.

After a basket by Patrick Williams pulled Potomac to within 20-18, Dunbar scored the next five, getting a follow shot by Eric McNeil and a three-pointer by Rodrick Harrison, for a 25-18 with 6:25 left in the first half.

The Braves pulled back to within 25-23, but Dunbar responded )) with a 7-2 run to take a 32-25 lead, the Poets' largest margin of the first half.

Potomac received baskets from Peters and Chris Johnson to close to 32-29 with 1:41 left. The Braves appeared to be ready to pull closer after Peters rebounded a miss by Elliott.

But his pass was intercepted by Sean Lipscomb, who drove in for a layup and was fouled by Peters. Lipscomb hit the free throw, giving the Poets a 35-29 halftime lead.

"We seem to adjust to whatever we have to do to win," said Dunbar coach Paul Smith. "The players have played a lot of games this year and I was worried going into the game. It may have been a 13-point margin, but all coaches worry."

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