COLLEGE PARK - Ever since his team's devastating, 18-point loss to Pocomoke of Worcester County in the Class 1A title game last year, Dunbar forward Byron Selby has carried a laminated copy of an article detailing the setback.
"The headline says, 'Pocomoke unseats 7-time champ Dunbar,'" Selby said of the defeat at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House, which left him and his teammates in tears, with their faces buried in their hands.
His head buried in a towel after yesterday's Class 1A championship rematch with Pocomoke at Comcast Center, Selby shook again as tears streamed from his eyes, but this time, the senior's tears were of joy.
Selby, 6 feet 5, came off the bench to score seven of his 15 points, to go with 11 rebounds, in the critical second period of a 72-55 victory that ended a 38-game winning streak by Pocomoke (25-1).
"I did this the day we lost, and I had to look at this for 360-something days," he said, producing a copy of the story yesterday.
"This hurt right here. It left everyone in the locker room crying after having worked so hard to get to this point. We used this as motivation to work hard and get back here."
The win earned No. 2 Dunbar (26-2) its state-leading eighth Maryland championship in its 10th title-game appearance.
The Poets' Maurice Barksdale scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth period, in which he was 6-for-7 on free throws (9-for-10 for the game), and Herman Hayes had 17 points and seven rebounds.
A loss by the Poets would have left Baltimore City - a winner of 16 boys state titles since joining the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association in 1993 - without a boys basketball state champion for the first time since 2000.
"There was a lot of pride on the line tonight," said Barksdale, 5-10, whose Poets out-scored the Warriors 20-10 in the fourth period. "We wanted to prove something not only to the city, but to the state, as well."
Pocomoke returned five of its top six players from the squad that routed Dunbar last year behind 29 points and 10 rebounds from JoVon Schoolfield, 26 points and 13 rebounds from Eddie Miller (including 10-for-16 field-goal shooting) and 13 points from Gerry Laws, who was 5-for-5 on free throws.
Yesterday, however, only Miller (27 points) and Schoolfield (10) scored in double figures. Miller had four field goals in the first period, after which Dunbar trailed 17-12. But he made just one field goal in the second quarter, when Poets coach Eric Lee used a box-and-one defense that featured Camontae Griffin on Miller.
"[Miller's] a great player, and we had to slow him down to stay in this game," Lee said. "We just told Camontae to follow him, stay with him. He's a junior and he did a great job."
Said Pocomoke's 26th-year coach, David Byrd, whose Warriors routed Dunbar, 88-70, for his 400th career win on his 50th birthday last season: "When Dunbar has to go box-and-one on a player like Eddie Miller, that tells you there's a pretty good player on the floor.
"We were a better team than last year, but overall, they were also a better team. They were a little deeper and played with a little more energy [down the stretch.]"
Pocomoke's pressure defense produced two early five-point leads, with three of its seven first-period steals producing points. But Dunbar came up with a 22-7 run, getting seven and six points, respectively, from Selby and Rodney Scott, with the latter hitting two three-pointers.
Dunbar led 34-27 at halftime, but Miller was back in action in the third quarter. His third three-pointer of the period brought Pocomoke within 42-40, and a layup by David Wilson tied the game at 42. But Dunbar closed with a 9-3 run for a 51-45 lead with one quarter left.
"We didn't win the city championship. We won a state championship," Hayes said. "Now, everybody knows who the real No. 1 team is."
D - Waddy 2, Jenifer 2, Thompson 2, Hayes 17, Barksdale 23, Scott 8, Selby 15, C. Griffin 3. Totals 26 16-26 72. P - Miller 27, Schoolfield 10, Laws 6, Wilson 6, Tull 4, Johnson 2. Totals 17 17-24 55. Half: D, 34-27.
The city game
Baltimore City, which joined the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association in 1993, has won a boys basketball title in 10 of the past 11 seasons:
1993 Southern (3A) Dunbar (1A)
1994 Southern (4A) Dunbar (2A)
1995 Lake Clifton (4A) Dunbar (2A)
1996 Southern (4A) Dunbar (3A)
1997 Southwestern (4A)
1998 Dunbar (2A) Forest Park (1A)
1999 Lake Clifton (4A) Dunbar (2A)
2001 Dunbar (2A)
2002 Douglass (3A)
2003 Dunbar (1A)