WASHINGTON -- Dunbar High of Baltimore and Dunbar High of Washington, the top teams in each city, each won semifinal games last night in the James Kenner Tournament at Georgetown University's McDonough Gymnasium.
The two Dunbars will meet in the championship game tonight at 8:15.
Baltimore Dunbar (1-0) defeated Coolidge, 75-58, in last night's second game after Washington's Dunbar held off Southern of Baltimore, 61-54, in overtime in the first.
It was difficult after the games to tell which Baltimore team had won.
Southern coach Meredith Smith was pleased with the effort of his mostly inexperienced team against Washington Dunbar, but Baltimore Dunbar coach Pete Pompey thought his team was sluggish, although the Poets ran away from Coolidge in the second quarter and were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.
"We played well in the first half but we got tired in the second half," said Pompey. "We like to run the ball and force the tempo, but when we make turnovers just walking up the court that worries me."
Dunbar turned the ball over 33 times, but the Poets were able to overcome their mistakes with the experience of four starters who returned from last season.
Donta Bright led Dunbar with 21 points, Michael Lloyd had 17 and Terrance Alexander 15.
The Poets pulled away from Coolidge in the second quarter after holding a 19-15 first-quarter lead. Ahead, 27-26, Alexander and Lloyd each scored four as Dunbar ran off 10 straight to build a 37-26 lead on the way to a 37-28 lead at the half. Coolidge never got closer than six points in the second half.
Pompey said the Poets cannot afford a performance like last night's against Washington Dunbar tonight.
"They have a pretty good team and we will have to play much better to beat them," he said.
Dunbar of Washington (4-0), ranked No. 1 by The Washington Post, outscored Southern, 13-6, in overtime to turn back the Bulldogs in their opener.
Southern, the defending Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference champion, built leads of as many as 13 points in the first half before Dunbar's full-court press helped the two-time defending Washington champions get back into the game.
Southern also turned the ball over 33 times, including 14 third-quarter turnovers when Dunbar rallied from a 25-22 halftime deficit to take a 43-35 lead.
But Southern, with three new starters and an inexperienced bench, battled back with senior point guard David Cason, one of two starters back from last season, leading the way.
Despite the loss, Southern was upbeat after the game. It was the Bulldogs' opener and despite the turnovers Smith thought his team did a good job against one of the country's top teams.
"I'm pleased, not with defeat but with the performance," he said. "We're relying on kids not with a lot of experience but with a tremendous amount of talent. I have confidence in them."
Southern had a chance to win the game in regulation after Dunbar's James Marshall hit two free throws with 41 seconds left to tie the game at 48-48.
Kwame Evans missed a jumper and after his brother, Che, was tied up for a jump ball, Kwame missed another as time expired.
Southern took the lead in overtime on a jumper by freshman Derrick Watkins but the Bulldogs went scoreless for nearly two minutes while Johnny Rhodes scored five of his team's seven points as Dunbar opened a 55-50 lead. Southern never got closer than three the rest of the way.
Cason led Southern with 22 points and five assists. Rhodes had 18 and Marshall had 17 to lead Dunbar, ranked No. 21 in the country by Street & Smith's in its preseason top 25.
Kwame Evans, a 6-6 junior guard, finished with 10, and his brother Che, a 6-4 senior forward, finished with eight points and a team-best 11 rebounds. There were also flashes of impressive things to come from 6-5 junior Derrick Watkins and Simpson, who hit the first shot in overtime.
"I think the kids did an excellent job for the first time out," said Smith. "I think the next time we should improve."