Barry Jenifer's jumper from the top of the key with 1:30 remaining gave host Dunbar a one-point lead, and the Poets closed with five more points to defeat Southern, 54-48, for the Baltimore City boys basketball championship yesterday.
Jenifer's go-ahead basket came off Nathan Irby's fifth assist of the game. Irby, who had a game-high 15 points, then sank three of four free throws down the stretch while Craig Singletary, Kyle Johnson and Jenifer grabbed clutch rebounds on the other end for the Poets.
"We wanted it more than they did," said Irby. "And we made the plays and played good defense.
Jenifer's sixth defensive rebound and game-high 11th overall resulted in Byron Roundtree taking the former's outlet pass to score the last two points as the clock ran down.
"Our staying in there and rebounding in the last period, along with converting off turnovers, was the difference," said Dunbar coach Smiley Lee, who had four Poets in double figures. "Winning the city means a lot to us, but the state title is our ultimate goal."
Southern had beaten Dunbar, 57-49, during the regular season on the way to the West Division title. Dunbar earned the rematch by winning the East, and it's conceivable there may be a third game between the two in the Class 1A South regional.
"This is a big rivalry because we play [Amateur Athletic Union] ball with a few of their players," said Jenifer, whose basket with one second left before intermission gave the Poets a 23-22 lead. "Our coaches prepared us well for this game, and we listened to them."
The No. 5 Poets (18-2) claimed their first city title since 2001 and deprived No. 7 Southern (17-3) of winning the title in its final year. Southern will become part of Digital Harbor at the conclusion of this school year and will go from being the Bulldogs to the Rams.
Last night in a Dunbar gym filled with banners and tradition, the Bulldogs grabbed a 48-47 lead with 2:00 left on the front end of two free throws by Deshawn Williams. The Bulldogs failed to score again while the Poets rung up seven straight points.
"Our offensive execution was not as good as it should have been," said Mike Wise, Southern's coach, who assisted the man he succeeded, Meredith Smith, for 14 years. "And we got a couple of charging calls that could have gone either way, but went against us. We just didn't do the things we needed to do to win."
Southern hit only three of 15 from the field and five of nine from the line in the last eight minutes after shooting 42 percent on 13 of 31 shots through the first three periods.
A three-pointer by Roundtree, who had 11 points as did Jenifer and Singletary, gave Dunbar a 36-35 lead going into the final period.
The Bulldogs finished 35 percent for the game on 16 of 46 with Jerel Green, who averages nearly 20 points, scoring only six points. Dunbar's box-and-one and a few jump defenses slowed Green down.
Southern was led by 13 points and eight rebounds by Reginald Holmes and 12 points and seven rebounds from Williams.
Dunbar shot 39 percent for the game on 19 of 48 attempts and was 7-for-16 down the stretch.