JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- Michael Lloyd's tennis shoes are a memorial to his deceased best friend, Rodney Beasley, and a reminder of the tragedy that has befallen his idol, Magic Johnson.
The names of both are written on each of the Dunbar senior guard's burgundy-and-white Nikes, and he has dedicated this season to both of them. Beasley was killed in an automobile accident last spring in which Lloyd was injured, and Johnson ended his NBA career last month after testing positive for the virus that causes AIDS.
Looking like a man on a mission, Lloyd got the season off to a solid start this weekend with a tournament-high 45 points in two games, as Dunbar won the 43rd annual Cambria War Memorial Tournament.
The Poets, rated No. 1 in the country, beat Philadelphia's Simon Gratz, the country's No. 3 team, 52-49, in Saturday night's championship game before 2,326 at the War Memorial Arena.
Lloyd scored 12, but among them were a couple of big baskets late, and his four steals typified Dunbar's solid defensive effort.
Gratz led by 43-39 with 3 minutes, 38 seconds left, but the Poets scored seven straight to take a 46-43 lead and never trailed again.
Lloyd, who scored 33 in a semifinal win over Blackhawk High of Beaver Falls, Pa., Friday night, got that run started with a three-pointer that cut Gratz's lead to 43-42. He stole an inbounds pass and made a layup with 40 seconds left to seal the win.
Lloyd said he was a lot happier with the Poets' performance Saturday than Friday, when they struggled with a slower, smaller Blackhawks team before finally pulling away for a 92-71 victory.
"Now we know we have to come together when we play a top-ranked team like this because this won't be the last time we see them and we will see some more teams like this," said Lloyd, who also had eight steals, eight rebounds and four assists in the two games. "We played together. We played better than we did last [Friday] night even though we won by less."
Teammate Donta Bright could have been chosen the tournament's most outstanding player. The senior center had 17 in Friday's semifinal win and played great defense and led the Poets with 20 points in the win over Gratz.
"It doesn't matter who gets it," said Dunbar coach Pete Pompey. "You can be successful as long as nobody cares who gets the credit. That's what I hope we are about."
Bright, 6 feet 6, did a masterful job of defensing Gratz's 6-10 junior center, Rasheed Wallace, one of the nation's best big men.
Wallace, who had 25 in a semifinal win over Johnstown on Friday, scored 14 against the Poets. He was held scoreless in the fourth quarter by Bright, who played the final 2:30 with four fouls.
"That's the greatest I've ever seen him play defense on a man that tall," said Lloyd. "I'm used to seeing him play guys his size or a little shorter and dominating them. This guy really gave Donta problems, but Donta really controlled him on defense."
The Poets didn't shoot well either, making 22 of 54.
"We haven't shot well all year long even in scrimmages and practice," said Pompey. "We are a better shooting team than that. We've got to get back in and get our jump shot legs together."
The Poets' ballhawking man-to-man defense did the job against Gratz. Dunbar limited the Philadelphia team to 18-for-42 shooting and forced 18 turnovers. All five Dunbar starters had at least two steals.
"I'm basically pleased with our defense," said Pompey. "We're still probably a little ways from running the offense, but if we keep playing defense like that we're going to be a good basketball team."
Dunbar plays its first game in Baltimore tomorrow afternoon at Mount St. Joseph. The Poets travel to St. Louis on Thursday to take on Missouri power Vashon.