MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Senior center Donta Bright put in a missed jumper by forward Keith Booth at the buzzer to give Dunbar, the nation's No. 1 team, a 55-53 victory over No. 13 Simon Gratz, in the championship of the Beach Ball Classic last night.
Bright's basket capped a wild contest before a crowd of 3,500 at Socastee High in which Dunbar (11-0) built an 18-point first-half lead with textbook-style basketball.
But the Poets went cold in the second half, scoring 13 points thanks to some poor decisions and tight officiating. Gratz (10-3) rallied to tie on a free throw by Rasheed Wallace with 1 minute, 31 seconds remaining.
Wallace missed the second free throw, but Gratz had another chance to take the lead after Michael Lloyd's layup bounced in and out to Gratz.
Gratz's Shawn Smith went to the line for a one-and-one opportunity after being fouled by Lloyd with 44 seconds left, but he missed and Dunbar grabbed the rebound.
The Poets ran the clock down to 10 seconds before calling a timeout. They inbounded the ball to Booth, who drove to the right side of the lane and pulled up near the foul line. He let loose a one-hander that hit under the basket. Bright grabbed it in a crowd and laid it off the glass for the win, Dunbar's 34th straight.
"I just put it off the glass and the ball just dropped in," said Bright. "I knew it was good when it left my hand."
Bright finished with 21 points and Lloyd added 12. Booth, who spent most of the second half on the bench with four fouls, finished with seven.
Dunbar coach Pete Pompey said he wanted to get the ball to Bright on the final play, but really just wanted to get a shot off.
"We put four big guys in and let Mike handle the ball. We just wanted to get the ball on the board and maybe get a tip," said Pompey.
The Poets appeared awesome in the first half, racing to a 42-24 lead. They took mostly high-percentage shots, but also took three-pointers when they had opportunities and hit most of them.
Defensively they completely shut down Gratz's highly touted 6-foot-11 center Rasheed Wallace, who did not score in the first half, and finished with seven points.
Bright, 6-6, played Wallace for most of the first half. After he picked up two fouls, Bright gave way to Booth, 6-7, who also did a good job of containing the big center. Wallace missed five shots.
The Poets also shut down Gratz's 6-5 junior forward, Jamahal Redman. He scored two points and was one-for-five from the floor. Booth played Redman for most of the half before switching to Wallace.
The Poets scored the final nine of the first quarter to turn a 13-8 lead into a 22-10 first-quarter lead.
Simon Gratz did not score in the final 3:30 of the period, turning the ball over four times and missing four shots.
Gratz made four of 20 field goals in the first quarter. Gratz improved its shooting in the second quarter, hitting seven of 16, but the Poets hit eight of 12.
Dunbar led 33-24 with 1:30 left in the half then closed the half with a 9-0 run that included nine points by Bright to push the lead to 42-24.
But the second half was a different story.
The Poets scored five points in the third quarter, on a three-pointer and two free throws, as Gratz rallied to within 47-40. The Poets managed one field goal in the final 6:30 of the fourth quarter and that was Bright's at the buzzer.
"We came out sluggish in the second half as usual," said Bright. "When we get back in the gym [to practice], we have to get our legs back. We've been on the road for three weeks, but when we get our legs back, we won't lose leads like that."
Pompey attributed part of the poor second half to the officiating.
"One man made every call and there were some horrible calls," he said. "But that wasn't the whole thing. We went to sleep."
In last night's third-place consolation, No. 2 St. Joseph Notre Dame from Alameda, Calif., ripped No. 3 St. Raymond's of New York, 94-67, as Jason Kidd scored 39.
SIMON GRATZ -- Griffin 6, Redman 6, Wallace 7, Scott 18, Smith 10, Stokes 6. Totals: 19 15-22 53.
DUNBAR -- Booth 7, Jones 7, Bright 21, Banks 5, Lloyd 12, Mobley 2, Cooper 1. Totals: 21 10-15 55.
Gratz. . . 10. . . 14. . . 16. . . 13. . . --. . . 53
Dunbar . . 22. . . 20. . . .5. . . .8. . . --. . . 55