As a former player, Daryl Wade saw many teams come into Dunbar's gymnasium looking to challenge the Poets' supremacy, only to leave with a loss.
Now a coach, Wade brought his upstart and sixth-ranked City team into Dunbar, with the city's East Division title on the line last night.
The Knights gave the No. 2 Poets a major scare, but Dunbar came through again on its court with a 63-59 victory in an intense battle.
The win gives Dunbar (12-2, 5-0) the East title for the second straight year and a spot in the city championship game. Tomorrow afternoon Dunbar visits West Division leader and No. 15 Southwestern at 3: 30.
The Poets were able to take advantage of City's inexperience, overcoming an 11-point third-quarter deficit to complete a sweep of the Knights, No. 7 Mervo and No. 10 Southern-Balto. on the East side.
Senior guard Lafonte Johnson scored 20 points to lead Dunbar, and senior center Donteaz Dean added 16 and four rebounds. Ryan Galloway led City (11-4, 4-1) with 15 points.
With Knights point guard Todd Galloway (four points) in foul trouble, Dunbar forced eight turnovers over the final 12 minutes of regulation, helping spark its comeback.
"We got some big rebounds, and played better defense in the second half," said Dean, a 6-foot-7 center who had nine points in the final quarter. "They've never been in a position like this, and the inexperience showed."
Said Dunbar coach Lynn Badham, whose team was city runner-up last season: "The kids have a lot of pride in themselves and in the program. I think that carried them as just much as knowing what to do."
Down 61-59, City threw the ball away with 24 seconds remaining in regulation. The Knights didn't immediately foul the Poets, and allowed precious time to run off the clock.
By the time City was able to hear Wade over the noise of the Dunbar crowd, Leonard Ferguson got an uncontested layup with five seconds left, closing out the contest.
"We made some crucial mistakes at the end," said Wade, whose team lost for the first time to an area team. "The kids played hard, though. I can't ask any more of them."
Pub Date: 1/27/99