For the Dunbar boys basketball team, four seasons without a state championship is a dry spell.
With an impressive 69-43 win over Clear Spring in Friday’s Class 1A state semifinal at Xfinity Center, the No. 6 Poets put themselves in a good position to end the drought.
With a balanced offensive performance and strong perimeter defense, Dunbar was too much for the Blazers from Washington County and the reward is an opportunity to add to its record 15 state titles.
The Poets (25-3) will get that chance Saturday, when they return to College Park to take on Fairmont Heights with game time set for 1 p.m.
While All-Metro senior guard Da’Shawn Phillip (19 points, nine rebounds and three steals) and senior guard Malik McCormick (18 points) turned in terrific offensive performances, and sophomore forward Jamal West Jr. (eight points, 19 rebounds) dominated inside, Dunbar coach Cyrus Jones Sr. was quick to state his team’s defense won the game.
The Blazers (19-6) had four players averaging at least 11 points with senior Jaret Lazich leading the way with 18 points per game. Lazich was limited to three points, all coming past the midway point of the fourth quarter with the game in hand for the Poets, and the Blazers finished 0-for-13 on 3-point tries.
“I think that says a lot about how hard our guys worked to run them off the 3-point line and not allow them to shoot 3-pointers,” Jones said. “3-pointers will beat 2-point shots all day. Once we controlled the [3-point] line and not allowed them to shoot the 3-pointers … we were able to run away and get some easy baskets in transition and in half-court sets.”
The Poets led from the start and pulled away in the second quarter with their own 3-point shooting. McCormick and fellow senior Zephaniah Esguerra each made two and with Phillip also making two baskets, they took a 34-22 lead at the half.
The Blazers made a push in the third quarter, cutting the Poets’ advantage to 36-29 with 5:31 left. But McCormick would answer with a three-point play, Phillip finished a dunk and points from the bench came with Damon Miller hitting a 3-pointer and Jalen Scott adding a basket that made it 46-31 with 1:24 to play in the quarter.
The Poets’ most recent title came in 2013, two seasons before Phillip and this senior class arrived. He’s determined to end his high school career with a win Saturday.
“It’s surreal. I’ve been here four years and never made it to [Xfinity Center], so I’m going to take some time, get my teammates together and go out and win a state championship,” Phillip said. “We want to control what we can control and just focus on winning a state championship — one game, one possession at a time.”
CS — Lazich 3, Davis 18, Michael 9, Myers 11, Faith 1, Yeakle 1. Totals: 16 9-15 43
D — Phillip 19, West 8, McCormick 18, Esguerra 6, Miller 7, Scott 2, Tolbert 4, Cannady 2, Davis 3. Totals: 26 8-10 69.
Half: D, 34-22