After watching their team play an uninspired and sloppy first half yesterday, Southern-Baltimore coaches challenged Melvin Scott and Isaiah Johnson to bring the No. 7 Bulldogs back from a 15-point halftime deficit against Mervo.
They answered the call, and then some.
Johnson and Scott combined for 47 points to carry host Southern to an 87-75 victory over No. 6 Mervo in a Baltimore City East league matchup.
Scott led all scorers with 34 points, 28 in the second half. Johnson, a 6-foot-7 junior forward, finished with 29 points and a game-best 14 rebounds. In the last 16 minutes, Southern (14-5, 3-3) scored 65 points against the Mustangs (16-4, 1-4), who were led by Marcus Hatten's 29 points.
Mervo ended Southern's season last March in the state 4A North Region semifinals. The bracket, which includes past state titlists Lake Clifton and Southwestern, is considered the toughest in the state.
Though the Bulldogs could possibly cross paths with Mervo in the regionals in a couple of weeks, they displayed their mettle yesterday, wiping out Mervo's 17-point, third-quarter lead.
"They stayed calm and poised," said Southern coach Meredith Smith, whose team has won 11 straight. "I thought our execution was better in the second half, and they played with more intensity and determination. We got a couple of people upset at halftime, so I guess since they couldn't take it out on us, they tried to take their frustrations out on the court."
Smith and his assistants challenged his team's leaders -- Scott and Johnson. The duo, despite combining for 14 first-half points, played lackadaisical and reckless. The second half was entirely different.
Trailing 45-28 with six minutes left in the third quarter, Scott (six three-pointers) dropped in a three, starting a 15-0 run that included eight straight points from Johnson, who had 21 in the second half.
A three-pointer from the corner by Johnson brought Southern even at 51 before Hatten responded with a jumper. But Hatten was called for a technical for taunting after the basket, leading to three free throws by Scott that gave Southern a 54-53 lead at the end of the period.
Another three-pointer by Scott gave the Bulldogs with a 57-55 lead with 7: 41 left. Layups by Colin Murdock and Darnell Dorsey off of Mustang turnovers increased the lead to six.
"We weren't executing or listening to the coaches, we were playing individually," said Scott, a 6-foot sophomore guard. "We had a good talk in the locker room, put those things aside, and dug in."
No. 14 Dunbar 83, No. 20 Walbrook 61: Freshman three-point ace Toni Kennedy led four Poets in double figures as Dunbar (16-3) rolled over the host Warriors (11-5) in a nonleague city game.
Kennedy ignited a 30-point third quarter with back-to-back three-pointers on feeds from Tiffany Jones (18 points, nine assists). Then Varnell Baylor (16 points) followed with another three to boost the lead to 38-19.
With their outside shooters hot and 5-10 LaKeisha Wills (14 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, four steals) dominating inside, the Poets ran their lead to 63-29 early in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors rallied to score 34 fourth-quarter points as Dena McGriff (20 points) and Jimea Barner (17) combined for 23, but the Poets were just too far ahead.
Pub Date: 2/17/99