There was nothing classic about Dunbar's performance last night in the Charm City Classic, but in the end the Poets once again continued their dominance against one of the nation's top teams.
This time the test came from St. Raymond's of The Bronx, N.Y., the nation's 12th-ranked team in USA Today looking to avenge a loss to the Poets in the the semifinals of the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina. But the nationally top-ranked Poets had too much firepower in the 93-82 win over the Ravens at the Towson Center.
"We made our mistakes," said Dunbar coach Pete Pompey, "but it wasn't because we underestimated them. They're a great team and we played them before. If something was wrong, it was our doing."
Whatever they did wrong, the Poets still improved to 15-0 going into tonight's game against St. Anthony's, the nation's third-ranked team. The last time Dunbar lost a game was against St. Anthony's last season -- a loss the Poets avenged the following week on their way to finishing third in USA Today's Super 25.
For the Poets, last night's game amounted to missed dunks, missed layups and missed fast-break opportunities -- and still the Poets led by 22 late in the fourth quarter. It's almost a scary thought what would happen if the Poets put together a complete game against one of the nation's top teams.
"Sometimes we played selfish," said Dunbar center Donta Bright, who led the Poets with 30 points. "We have to get out of that habit. We're a great team and we can't be like that. But as long as we win, what can I say?"
Appearing to expend very little effort early, the Poets jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the opening minutes, with Michael Lloyd scoring five of the points. St. Raymond's fell behind by as many as 17-6 as the Ravens missed three shots and committed five turnovers in their first 10 possessions.
But after the Poets took a 19-12 lead to end the first quarter, St. Raymond's forward Dana Dingle scored six of his 15 first-half points in the first two minutes of the second quarter as St. Raymond's pulled to within 22-18. That apparently was a cue for Bright, who erupted for eight points in a 10-0 run that increased the lead to 32-18. The lead eventually went to as many as 18 on the way to a 41-27 halftime lead, despite 14 Dunbar turnovers. Bright had 14 points at the break for the Poets.
"He's such a great player and he's proven himself over a lot of guys bigger than him, Pompey said of Bright, who gave up an inch to St. Raymond's 6-7 center Damon Boneparte. "He comes to play every night and he gets the job done."
The second half was more of the same as the Poets both turned it on in the opening minutes to increase the lead again to 18, 48-30, only to get sloppy by quarter's end when the lead was cut to 64-56.
St. Raymond's got as close as 65-60 after a jumper by guard Trevor Redfearn, but there was never any real sense of the Poets being threatened. With the Ravens fouling on nearly every Dunbar possession in the fourth quarter, the Poets hit 17 of 22 free throws in the final eight minutes.
"We made a lot of mistakes, but we went to the foul line and made the free throws when it counted," Pompey said. "We've won a lot of ways, and this one was just different."
Whatever way it was done, St. Raymond's coach Gary Decesare was impressed.
"They kept throwing over our press and every time got the layup, Decesare said. "We didn't get the rebounds off the missed foul shots, that's what it came down to."
For the Poets, it was their eighth successful encounter against a Super 25 team this year. What's frightening is the lack of effort the Poets have used going against what's considered to be some of the nation's best teams.
"After playing eight of the best teams, it's difficult for the kids to continue to get up," Pompey said. "I don't know if playing, and winning, against that many top teams has ever been done."