Two-time defending city champion Western had a message for upstart Dunbar yesterday -- "Not yet."
The No. 12 Poets went into No. 10 Western's gym looking for an upset, but the poise of the Doves' senior-laden squad overcame the Poets' youthful enthusiasm. The Doves (9-3) broke away in the third quarter en route to a 68-53 victory.
"With the four seniors that play for them and the youth we have, that makes a difference," said Dunbar coach Wardell Selby, who starts two freshmen. "They were home and they have a big tradition here. They didn't want to be the senior class that let the little Lady Poets sneak in on them."
The Poets (10-2) appeared to be the Doves' best competition in the city's Eastern Division, so yesterday's win could send Western back to the city title game. The Doves remained unbeaten in the division; the Poets dropped to 3-1.
Western seniors Crystal Falline (17 points, 10 rebounds), Delena DeShields (15 points, two assists) and Latia Few (eight points, four assists) led the way while junior Joy Gorham added 15 points -- eight in the fourth quarter.
In a game that was tied 10 times in the first 18 minutes, the Doves broke away on the only significant run of the game -- a 13-0 spurt capped by Tina Crawley's baseline 20-footer. That gave Western a 47-34 lead with 2: 24 left in the third quarter.
In the second half, the Doves used an active zone to double-team and nearly shut down Poets 5-foot-10 center LaKeisha Wills, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds but had only two points and three rebounds in the second half.
With Wills under wraps, her teammates were forced to shoot from outside, but the long shots that fell earlier wouldn't go.
Western's Few agreed that experience made a difference. "We have five seniors," she said, "and the senior leadership carries the team. We played our game. We just slowed it down, ran some plays instead of rushing, and we stepped up on defense."
The Doves' defense also forced three turnovers in the middle of the run that led to six points within a minute. Crawley, Gorham and DeShields had steals that resulted in transition points.
"The big thing we needed to do was play defense," said Western coach Artie Uhlich. "We were letting them get behind us on defense and they were getting a lot of easier shots closer to the basket. Defense was going to be the turning point for whoever was going to take the lead."
Tiera Little and Toni Kennedy scored 13 each for the Poets.
Pub Date: 1/20/99