In what may have been a state playoff preview, No. 11 Southern-Baltimore defeated visiting and No. 13 Southwestern, 56-54, for its third straight victory yesterday.
So why wasn't Bulldogs coach Meredith Smith smiling?
"We turned it over on the dribble, we turned it over on passes," he said. "We had an uncontested layup, and all we had to do was make a fundamental pass, but we lose it out of bounds trying a behind-the-back pass. That has been the problem with this team all season."
The Bulldogs (6-5) won despite being limited to two field goals in the final quarter, both coming in the final 2: 16. In addition, Southern committed six miscues in that time, but still won the Baltimore City non-divisional contest.
Sophomore guard Melvin Scott scored 19 points for the Bulldogs and partially blocked Earl Carr's jumper that would have tied it with four seconds left. Carr led Southwestern (7-4) with 17 points.
Isaiah Johnson, who scored six of his 11 points in the final period, hit a shot from the free-throw line that banked in for the decisive score with 33.4 seconds remaining.
After dropping decisions to Dunbar, Douglass and City to start the second half of the season, Southern put together a pair of solid outings against Booker T. Washington (Va.) and Granby (Va.) at the Mayor's Academy at Coppin State last weekend.
Whatever progress Southern made in that tournament, Smith said the team took a small step backward yesterday. Stressing fundamentals and execution, Smith has been frustrated by the Bulldogs' lack thereof.
Southern led 48-40 with 7: 35 remaining before turnovers in six of seven possessions resulted in a 52-50 deficit with 4: 12 left.
Johnson tied the game with two free throws with 2: 56 left. After a rebound and follow by Kevin Bethea (15 points) put the Sabers up by two, Nathaniel Fields converted a layup, tying it again. It was the first field goal by the Bulldogs in more than six minutes.
Southwestern lost the ball on consecutive possessions, and Johnson, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, made them pay with the jumper.
"We're not executing, and some of us are looking at personal goals, not team goals," said Johnson, who had eight rebounds. "We're not playing hard or playing with guts."
Scott carried the offensive load for Southern early, dropping in 14 points as the Bulldogs took a 32-25 halftime advantage.
"They stepped up and played great," said Southwestern coach Terry Leverett, whose team leads the city's West Division. "They didn't have any lapses, and we did. It was a great game."
Pub Date: 1/20/99