JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- Dunbar High, the nation's No. 1 team according to USA Today, rallied from a four-point deficit with 3:38 left to defeat Philadelphia's Simon Gratz, 52-49, in the championship game of the Cambria County War Memorial Tournament last night at War Memorial Arena.
Senior guard Michael Lloyd scored 12 points, including five of the Poets' final 13, to spark the victory over the nation's third-ranked team and earn the tournament's most outstanding player award. Senior center Donta Bright had 20 for the Poets, and senior guard Paul Banks added nine.
:. Bright also did a superb job of containing
Gratz's 6-foot-10 junior Rasheed Wallace, who did not score in the fourth quarter and finished with 14 points.
"I just tried to front him," said Bright, who also had six rebounds and two assists. "I was stronger than him. I just tried to front him and get help."
Defense was the name of the game last night. Neither team had any consistency on offense.
Dunbar stuck with its aggressive ballhawking man-to-man, and Gratz employed a 1-2-2 that hampered the Poets' perimeter game.
"Outstanding defense by both teams," said Dunbar coach Pete Pompey. "Great man-to-man and they played us in a tough zone that gave us some problems. I think our defense is what made it happen for us."
Dunbar's defense helped produce 18 turnovers by Gratz and 18-for-42 shooting (42 percent) from the field. The Poets made 22 of 54 (41 percent).
Gratz led by 43-39 with 3:38 left, but the Poets scored seven straight to take a 46-43 lead and never trailed again.
Lloyd, who had 33 in a semifinal win over Blackhawk on Friday night, got that run started with a three-pointer that cut Gratz's lead to 43-42. Banks added a jumper and Diego Jones got a layup off a steal to make it 46-43.
Gratz battled back to within 48-47 and had the ball after Bright was tied up for a jump ball. But Lloyd stole the inbounds pass in the backcourt and put in a layup with 40 seconds left to make it 50-47.
Gratz got a layup by Jamahal Redmond to make it 50-49 with 30 seconds left, but the Poets ran off the final half minute and Bright hit a layup as time expired to account for the final score.
"It was a very tough game," said Lloyd, who also had four steals, three rebounds and two assists. "Their big fellow gave us some problems. We couldn't really get our running game moving with him causing confusion on our shots."
Lloyd and backcourt mates Jones and Banks (three steals each) also did an outstanding job of defensing Gratz's backcourt. The Poets contested every shot and every dribble and made it tough to get the ball inside to Wallace.
"By us pushing up on them and making them work a lot, it took the legs out from under them late in the game," said Pompey.
Dunbar raced to a 5-0 first-quarter lead on a short jumper by Banks and a three-pointer by Jones. The Poets went on to lead by as much as six in the first quarter before Gratz used a 4-0 run to draw even at 12-12 with 1:07 left.
Banks broke the tie with a three-pointer and the Poets led 15-14 at the end of the quarter.