One of the drawbacks to the open format for the state playoffs is that teams with losing records are able to participate. For some of those teams, it meant one extra game before departing.
But for Carver, which won only two games during the regular season, it was an opportunity to start over. After beating Howard and Centennial, the Bears found themselves in the 3A East Region final yesterday against No. 2 Dunbar.
Carver wasn't ready to end its Cinderella-like ride, trading baskets with the visiting Poets in the first half. But Dunbar proved too strong for the Bears, turning them back, 82-65.
Senior forward Tommy Polley scored 24 points to lead Dunbar (19-6) and Jamar Holt added 18. Nathaniel Wingo led Carver (4-18) with 23 points and Robert Williams scored 20.
The Poets advance to the state semifinals at the University of Maryland for the fourth consecutive season, where they will play Gwynn Park, a 67-63 winner over Leonardtown.
Dunbar, seeking its fourth straight state championship, improved 15-0 in the state tournament with its latest triumph, using an 11-2 run to build a 65-48 lead with 5:45 remaining in the game.
"We played lethargic in the first half," said Polley, who had six rebounds and four assists. "They came out pumped. They had nothing to lose and came out with a vengeance."
The Poets opened things up in the second half with Tim Lyles scoring all 12 of his points in the final 16 minutes.
Holt, one of four returnees from last season who has been inconsistent, provided the scoring from the perimeter. He hit four three-pointers, including one from about 70 feet to end the opening quarter, which appeared to be the spark to get Dunbar going.
But Carver didn't crumble, taking a 34-33 lead with 1:24 remaining in the first half on a rebound and a layup by Williams, who had seven rebounds in the first half.
Dunbar shut down Williams on the boards in the second half and the Poets' depth wore down Carver, which only went one deep off the bench the entire game.
Lyles quickly took advantage in the third quarter, going to the basket to score six straight for the Poets to build a 54-43 lead with 3:04 left in the quarter.
A three-point play by Wingo pulled Carver to within 54-46, but the Bears couldn't sustain any offensive consistency after that, turning the ball over on seven of their next eight possessions.
"We lost a little fire in our bellies," said Carver coach Durce Jackson, whose team only beat Forest Park and Northwestern during the regular season. "We called a couple of timeouts to slow them and get them back into what I wanted, but we just never quite got back."
* Havre de Grace 84, Sparrows Point 72: For much of last night's Class 1A North Region final, host Sparrows Point seemed destined to win its first regional crown in 35 years.
Playing before their largest crowd of the season in a bandbox of a gym, the Pointers built an eight-point lead shortly before halftime, and seemed to have everything going their way.
With a second half to remember, however, Havre de Grace's John Sawyer got it right back, scoring 18 of his game-high 24 points after the break to lead the 16th-ranked Warriors.
The Warriors (18-5) advance to the Class 1A state semifinals against Williamsport, a 58-43 winner over Southern-Garrett, Friday at 5 p.m. at Cole Field House. It will mark their first trip to the University of Maryland campus since 1986.
* Annapolis 72, Old Mill 68: No. 8 Annapolis (21-5) held off Old Mill (10-14) to win the Class 4A East region championship. The Panthers survived a 30-point effort by Old Mill's Joe Barnes, who had six three-pointers.