ERIE, Pa. -- It isn't difficult for Cyrus Jones to get lost on Dunbar High's basketball team with three All-Americans. And it doesn't help that Jones is quiet and unassuming and goes by the first name Cyrus after using Diego last season.
However, last night he stepped into the limelight, sparking the nationally top-ranked Poets late as they held off No. 4 Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, 66-57, in a semifinal of the McDonald's Classic.
The victory, before a sellout crowd of 3,000 at Gannon University, advanced Dunbar to tonight's 8:30 final vs. Dunbar of Dayton, Ohio, which beat Cathedral Prep of Erie, 71-66. The Poets' win pushed their season record to 13-0 and winning streak to 35 games.
Jones finished with 10 points, three assists and two steals, and he did most of it in a three-minute span in the fourth quarter after Oak Hill had cut a 12-point Dunbar lead to 44-39 with 6 minutes, 30 seconds left and Dunbar center Donta Bright on the bench with four fouls.
First, Jones came up with a steal that led to a fast-break layup to make it 46-39. After Oak Hill scored four straight to cut it to 46-43, Jones hit a spinning short jumper in the lane to give the Poets a 48-43 lead. Jones later gave Alexander Mobley a pass for an easy layup to make it 52-45.
He then came up with a steal and a pass to Michael Lloyd for a layup to make it 54-45. Oak Hill never got closer than six the rest of the way, as the Poets made eight of 10 free throws in the final 1:40 to turn back the Warriors (16-2).
"He [Jones] did a nice job of going to the basket, stealing the ball and controlling the ball," said Dunbar coach Pete Pompey. "He made his presence felt. He made a big difference when Donta got into foul trouble."
Early on, it didn't seem as if Jones would have a presence at all. After Oak Hill jumped to an 8-0 lead in the first quarter, hitting four of its first five shots, Pompey quickly benched Jones and 5-2 point guard Paul Banks in favor of two big forwards.
"I wasn't disappointed," Jones said of the move. "I felt he was nTC doing it to win. I wasn't worried about that because I want to win, too. I just kept my head in the game."
The move paid off. The Poets rallied to trail by 14-11 at the end of the first quarter. With the bigger lineup featuring 6-7 junior Keith Booth at shooting guard, the Poets held Oak Hill to two free throws in the final five minutes of the first quarter and forced six turnovers.
They kept up the defensive pressure in the second quarter. Oak Hill made just four of 16 shots and committed three more turnovers as the Poets built a 32-24 halftime lead. Bright led Dunbar with 14 points and six rebounds in the first half.
"We were out of sync," said Oak Hill coach Steve Smith. "They had us playing their style. We just struggled on offense and didn't move the ball. We didn't do the things we normally do. We didn't execute well."
The Poets had a lot to do with that. After the early slump, they kept the Warriors off balance, challenging every dribble and every shot. Oak Hill committed 19 turnovers, 13 on Dunbar steals.
Oak Hill hit 23 of 54 shots (10 of 26 in the first half) and 11 of 20 free throws. The Poets didn't shoot much better, hitting 26 of 55 (only one of nine from three-point range) and 13 of 23 free throws. However, the Poets maintained their defensive intensity throughout, and that had Pompey smiling.
"Our kids played hard," Pompey said. "They played well for 32 minutes, something they hadn't done in the last couple of ballgames. We hadn't put four quarters together for a while."
Bright finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, five assists, five steals and two blocks. He carried the Poets early as their other two standouts, Booth and Lloyd, struggled.
Booth (eight points) had one stretch where he missed 10 straight, and Lloyd (14 points, two assists) had nine of the Poets' 18 turnovers.