At the start of the 1991-92 basketball season, Dunbar High and Walbrook dedicated their seasons to Rodney Beasley, a former teammate and friend at both schools, who was killed in an auto accident last spring.
Today those two teams will try to honor Beasley's memory with a championship when they meet at 7 p.m. at the Baltimore Arena for the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference championship as part of the Metro Classic.
Also today at the Arena, Carver and Edmondson meet at 1 p.m. for the B Conference championship and Severn and St. Paul's meet at 5 p.m. for the C Conference championship. St. Mary's, the girls Catholic League regular-season and tournament champion, takes on Walbrook, the City-wide champion, at 3 p.m.
In addition to the memory of Beasley, Dunbar also is playing this game for junior forward Keith Booth, who was disqualified from today's game after being thrown out of Tuesday's semifinal win over Southern. Booth was ejected for throwing the ball at Southern's Kevin Simpson after Simpson elbowed Booth.
MSA rules stipulate that a player thrown out of an MSA contest must sit out the next MSA game.
Booth's absence has become a rallying point for a Walbrook team that desperately needs an edge after being beaten by the Poets 93-74 Feb. 7.
"It will give us an advantage," said Walbrook's senior forward Jermaine Porter. "He does a lot of rebounding. We feel we can get more rebounds. He also scores for them, but now they don't have that third scorer."
Booth leads the Poets in rebounding (11.9) and ranks third in scoring (19.8). He is also an excellent ballhandler and defender.
"It will be hard because he does a lot of scoring and rebounding for us and he also helps us a lot with his ball-handling skills," said Dunbar's senior center Donta Bright, Booth's cousin.
Still, the Poets would seem to have a more than adequate lineup with Bright (20.1 ppg., 11.4 rpg) and Michael Lloyd (22.8 ppg, 6.3 apg), both McDonald's All-Americans, and senior guard Cyrus Jones (13.8 ppg), who has been the Poets' unsung hero all season.
"Twenty points and 12 rebounds missing off anybody's team would be a disadvantage, but this particular Dunbar team is loaded with talent," said Walbrook coach Gus Herrington. "I feel like someone else will step right up and pick up the load."
Center Alexander Mobley, a pleasant surprise as the Poets' sixth man, probably will start today and little-used forwards Michael .. Cooper and Ahmed Childs are expected to receive more playing time.
The Poets (28-0), the area and the nation's top-ranked team, will be shooting for their 52nd straight victory, second straight A Conference title and a third mythical national title for the school.
No. 5 Walbrook (14-9) is trying to become the first team other than Lake Clifton, Dunbar or Southern to win an A Conference title since 1971 (Mount St. Joseph).
The Warriors are led by junior guard Eric Carroll (15.0 ppg., 7.0 rpg.), a transfer from St. Frances, who joined the team in late December after improving his grades.
Senior forward Jermaine Porter (17.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) has been the most consistent player all year. Guards Antwan Wingo, Sean Evans and forwards Shamar Bass and Andre Rafus all make key contributions.
"I think right now with the experience we have we are playing a lot better," said Herrington. "The characteristics of Walbrook teams in the past is we've gotten better as the season has gone on. I feel we are playing the best ball we've played all season."