Simon Gratz swaps roles with Dunbar Philadelphia power eyes national title

January 15, 1993|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,Contributing Writer

Dunbar wants to defend its national title. Simon Gratz of Philadelphia will try to take a step toward claiming it. St. Anthony of Jersey City, N.J., is looking for revenge. Lake Clifton is seeking national recognition.

Those are the subplots for the second annual Charm City Classic, which tips off at the Towson Center today and concludes tomorrow night.

Five teams ranked in USA Today's Super 25 will be playing -- No. 1 Simon Gratz, No. 4 St. Anthony, No. 6 St. John's Prospect Hall of Frederick, No. 9 Dunbar of D.C. and the No. 10 Poets.

"You can take the talent pool in these games alone and put together a formidable college team," said St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley. "It's great. The atmosphere is one the high school kid dreams about."

In its second year, the Charm City Classic has become one of the country's premier high school basketball tournaments.

Tonight's main events will feature Lake Clifton vs. Simon Gratz at 7 p.m., and Dunbar of Baltimore vs. St. Anthony at 9 p.m.

During the past two seasons, the Poets and St. Anthony have developed one of the nation's top high school rivalries. Until the Poets' 57-game winning streak was broken by Roman Catholic of Philadelphia, 41-37, in the final of the Gonzaga (D.C.) Classic on Dec. 19, their last defeat was to St. Anthony, 66-65, on Dec. 14, 1990, in the opening round of the Skyline Classic.

The Poets avenged that loss 10 days later with a 60-54 win over the Friars in the Gonzaga Classic final.

Last year at the Charm City Classic, the Poets edged the Friars, 50-49, for their ninth victory over a team ranked nationally and cleared their final major hurdle to the national title. In that game, St. Anthony's backcourt didn't score.

The situation is different for the rematch. The Friars boast strong guards with senior Halim Abdullah, who has signed early with Northeastern, and Carlos Queto, a promising junior shooting guard.

The Poets have gotten good backcourt play from Yashida King, Michael Cooper and Gerald Singletary, but some still consider it the Poets' big weakness, along with inconsistent shooting.

"Against these two teams, if you don't put the ball in the basket and you don't stop people, you're not going to win," said Dunbar coach Pete Pompey.

In the finale tomorrow at 9 p.m., the Poets will meet Simon Gratz and their 6-foot-11 center, Rasheed Wallace, the most highly recruited player from the Philadelphia area since Wilt Chamberlain. Wallace is considered the country's top player.

Last season, Simon Gratz gave the Poets two scares, losing 52-49 in the final of the Cambria County War Memorial Tournament in Johnstown, Pa., and 55-53 in the championship game of the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on a basket by Donta Bright at the buzzer.

Bright did an outstanding job against Wallace in those two meetings, limiting him to 21 points total. This time, 6-8 junior center Norman Nolan will guard Wallace.

"I've been involved in tournaments with him over the summer," said Nolan. "But this one will be the biggest battle of them all, so I just want to go out there and play hard."

If Simon Gratz wins both of its games -- its final major challenges on the national level -- it could pave the way for its second national championship in three seasons.

"We have a pretty good ballclub," said Wallace, whose final college choices are Georgetown, Villanova, Temple and North Carolina. "That's just the way they ranked us. In some people's opinion, they think Oak Hill [Va.] or Dunbar is No. 1, but that's just opinions."

Lake Clifton, the area's No. 2 team, is the wild card in the field. The Lakers' up-tempo offense and aggressive full-court

defensive pressure pose interesting matchups for St. Anthony, known for solid fundamental defense, and Simon Gratz, which has allowed an average of 35 points per game.

"We have nothing to lose and everything to gain playing the No. 1 team in Simon Gratz and No. 4 team in St. Anthony," said Lake Clifton coach Charlie Moore.

In today's first game, local No. 9 Towson Catholic will meet St. John's Prospect Hall of Frederick, coached by Stu Vetter, who built successful programs at Harker Prep in Montgomery County and at Flint Hill (Va.). Tomorrow's first game will feature Southern, ranked No. 7 locally, against Dunbar (D.C.), ranked No. 1 in the Washington area.

Tournament proceeds will go to the St. Vincent's Center for Abused Children, to Bea Gaddy in her campaign to feed the hungry in the Baltimore area and for tutorial services for the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Charm City Classic

Site: Towson Center


Today: Towson Catholic (6-5) vs. St. John's Prospect Hall, Frederick (10-1), 5 p.m.; Simon Gratz, Philadelphia (17-0) vs. Lake Clifton (8-1), 7 p.m.; St. Anthony, Jersey City, N.J. (9-0) vs. Dunbar, Baltimore (9-1), 9 p.m.

Tomorrow: Southern, Baltimore (7-4) vs. Dunbar, D.C. (17-1), 5 p.m.; St. Anthony vs. Lake Clifton, 7 p.m.; Simon Gratz vs. Dunbar, Baltimore, 9 p.m.

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