Tiffany Jones hit three free throws in the final minute and finished with a triple double as No. 6-ranked Dunbar clinched a berth in the Baltimore City girls basketball championship game with a 67-62 win at No. 17 Mervo yesterday.
Jones, a 5-foot-7 junior guard, had 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the defending City and state Class 2A champions into the Feb. 21 title game, likely setting up a rematch of last year's final against No. 14 Western. The Poets improved to 16-3 overall and swept Division I with a 7-0 record.
"It feels good to be back [in the title game] again," Jones said. "We deserve it, because we worked hard throughout the year with everybody coming after us."
Yesterday, the host Mustangs had a chance to claim the title-game berth for themselves, rallying within 64-60 on Tobie Ashley's short jumper with 1:28 to go.
Ashley's basket and the previous one by Patrice Faison followed Dunbar turnovers - and Nell Wilson tried to force another. Wilson tried to take the ball from Jones near midcourt but was called for a foul. The freshman guard was also hit with a technical foul, apparently for slamming her fist into her palm too violently in frustration, although she never made a move toward Jones or any Poets player.
Jones hit the second of the two free throws for a 65-60 lead with a minute to play. On the ensuing possession, Jones was fouled again and nailed both shots. In the final 42 seconds, Ashley tried a couple of desperation three-pointers but could not convert.
Although the game was close most of the way, Dunbar briefly opened up a 14-point lead midway through the third quarter by hitting 11 of 13 shots, including two three-pointers from Toni Kennedy and other from Jones.
The Mustangs (13-3, 4-1 league) easily broke the Poets' full-court press early on, getting open shots on the wing and then relying on 5-11 center Camella Boyd to convert the misses. Boyd had all of her 10 points and 11 of 13 rebounds in the first half.
Still, the Poets kept pace, and coach Wardell Selby eventually called off the press for a 2-3 zone that still pressured the guards but also put a rein on the Mustangs' inside game.
"Boyd was rebounding well," Selby said, "and if we could keep her off the boards, we knew we could probably control the game a whole lot better, because we knew we needed to stop the sisters [Tobie and Erin Ashley]. She was the key with those second shots."
Erin Ashley scored a game-high 19 while Tobie had 13. Faison had 10 points and 10 rebounds. For Dunbar, Kennedy scored 13.
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