No. 2 Poets carry winning to court


It was just two weeks ago that Marcus Taylor's game-winning, second-half touchdown pass against Joppatowne completed Dunbar's 13-game winning streak, a Class 1A state championship victory and his initial season as a starting quarterback.

But he has since shed his football cleats and shoulder pads for basketball sneakers, shorts and a jersey. And Taylor said facing the crowd at M&T; Bank Stadium paled in comparison to what greeted him and the No. 2 Poets at No. 6 Douglass in yesterday's Baltimore City League clash of defending state basketball champions.

"When you're playing football, the crowd is way up in the stands," said the 6-foot-4 junior forward. "Here, they're right up on you, getting in your face, yelling and looking straight into your eyes."

After shaking the early jitters, Taylor's poise returned. He finished with a game-high 19 points and had six rebounds, keying an 81-62 victory by the Poets before a packed house at defending 3A state champion Douglass (3-1, 3-2).

Craig Singletary, a 5-foot-11 guard, finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and senior forward Donte Holcomb scored eight of his 17 points in the decisive fourth period, in which Dunbar led by as many as 20 points.

All-Metro point guard Nathan Irby grabbed seven rebounds, and had 15 points - including 5-for-7 free-throw shooting - as Dunbar improved to 4-0 against the city and 5-0 overall.

This after the Poets had stumbled out of the blocks, turning the ball over six times early in the first quarter and trailing 6-0.

"We came out a little nervous, and it took us a while to get it together," said Taylor, one of the eight players on Dunbar's 11-man roster who also played football. "But just like in football: Once that chemistry came back, we were unstoppable."

The key to the Ducks' early success was Troy Smith (12 points), who converted a layup after blocking a shot by Irby, and later turned a defensive rebound into a nearly court-length assist to Tyrone Flemming (16 points, six rebounds).

Dunbar turned its 33-27 halftime advantage into one of 55-42 after the third period, during which it led by as many as 17.

"We thought we had things in order, but we had a couple turnovers that they turned into shots," said coach Rodney Coffield, whose Ducks received 14 points each from Antione Smithson and Davon Gardener. "Instead of being down by six, we were down by a lot more and we never recuperated."

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