Dunbar forward Jolunda Leake has been on the verge of a breakout game for a while now and she picked a great time to deliver.
The 5-10 sophomore scored 16 of her 21 points in the first half to spark the No. 4 Poets to a 72-58 victory last night over Forestville in a Class 1A, South regional semifinal.
The host Poets (24-1), who won the last two state Class 2A titles, used a big first-half edge to hold off several Knights mini-rallies and a fourth quarter in which Dunbar did not hit a field goal.
With their 3-2 zone defense, the Prince George's County Knights (17-6) tried to foil the Poets' lethal perimeter game, especially Toni Kennedy's three-point shooting. No one paid much attention to Leake so she took command of the paint, scoring the first six points of the game.
In the first quarter, Leake scored 12 and grabbed six rebounds as the Poets hit nine of 13 shots from the field and outrebounded the Knights, 12-1.
"In the process of slowing down the outside shooters, we gave up the inside shot," said Knights coach Vincent McDuffie. "She did a great job of flashing and squaring up and shooting the basketball."
Leake said she and 6-foot forward Ciarra Jones (12 points, 16 rebounds) were ready to take advantage of the mismatch inside.
"They expected a lot out of Toni, so we tightened in on [freshman point guard Yolanda Lavender] because everyone else basically played their game off of hers," said Leake. "Everyone else was looking for Toni, so our point guard kept going inside. We knew they didn't have an inside game, so they couldn't beat us inside."
Kennedy, who finished with 15 points, scored seven in a 14-6 third- quarter run that boosted Dunbar's lead to 56-39. India Johnson finished off the half with a couple of 20-footers to push the Poets to their biggest lead, 62-43.
The Knights opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run, but the Poets kept pace the rest of the way by hitting 10 of 12 free throws.
The Poets' depth also made a difference. Eight Poets scored, but three girls accounted for 51 of the Knights' points. Lavender scored 19; Felicia Terrell had 17; and Kindra Taylor added 15 to become the first girl in Knights history to hit 1,000 career points.
The Baltimore City champion Poets, winners of 18 straight games and 46 straight at home, will meet Southside/Poolesville for the regional title tomorrow night..