Dunbar-Southern matchup adds fuel to season

December 07, 1993|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,Contributing Writer Jeff Seidel and John W. Stewart contributed to this story.

Last March, Dunbar and Southern of Baltimore became the first Baltimore City public schools to win a state championship. While the accomplishment was historic, there wasn't complete satisfaction for both.

Like two champions in boxing's heavyweight division, nothing was proven because the area's Nos. 1 and 2 teams, respectively, didn't play each other outside of a scrimmage at Dunbar last November.

That will change early this season as the traditional powers square off for the first time since March 1992, in the final game of the Walbrook Function in the Junction Mixer at Coppin State on Dec. 17.

"Last year, we didn't play and it has been long awaited," said Dunbar senior forward Michael Cooper. "It's going to be a great atmosphere. It's a game that the public really wants."

The rematch is the highlight of a number of interesting early-season matchups. Last Wednesday, DeMatha, ranked No. 3 in the country by USA Today, played at No. 10 Gibbons and won, 89-76. Potomac, which lost to the Southern Bulldogs in the state 3A title game last season, will play at Southwestern tomorrow, then next weekend, Lake Clifton and Walbrook will play at the Function in the Junction Mixer.

Defending 4A champ Largo of Prince George's County also will be playing in the mixer against Southern (Dec. 16) and Lake Clifton (Dec. 17). Dunbar and Walbrook meet on Dec. 17 to conclude the opening day of games.

This weekend at Lake Clifton, the Tip-Off Mixer features a matchup between Walbrook and Lake Clifton on Friday, then on Saturday, Lake Clifton and Southern will meet for the first time since the 1991-92 season.

"If you want to be the best, you've got to play the best," said Lake Clifton coach Charlie Moore, whose team will play No. 6 Southwestern at the Slam Dunk at the Beach Christmas Tournament in Dover, Del. "It's going to be competitive and make for an entertaining season."

Dunbar, which is ranked No. 8 nationally by USA Today, begins the season at No. 1 in The Baltimore Sun's metro area Top 20 poll after winning the state 1A title last season. After an off-season of distractions during which last season's coach, Pete Pompey, was put on administrative leave in August for alleged misuse of athletic department funds, the Poets are a solid favorite for the Class 2A title under interim coach, Paul Smith.

Southern and Lake Clifton are a close No. 2 and 3, respectively, and aren't far behind Dunbar. Each squad returns four starters and solid benches, and will battle along with Southwestern and Walbrook for the City 4A title and Class 4A, Region III championship. The Poets should win the City 3A-2A title with Poly and Carver behind and hoping for a berth in the state 3A tournament.

With a mythical national championship (1981-82) and three Catholic League titles to his credit while at Calvert Hall, Mark Amatucci is back at his alma mater, which will be in the thick of another competitive chase for the Catholic League title with Mount St. Joseph, Gibbons, St. Frances and Loyola.

In the Maryland Scholastic Association Armstrong Conference, McDonogh is the favorite in the A Division. The B Division race should be wide open with Boys' Latin, Gilman and Friends expected to battle for first.

No. 4 Woodlawn is the clear favorite in the Baltimore County 3A-4A League with Dundalk being its main challenger.

Woodlawn, which lost in the region finals last year while going 23-1, has loads of talent and should be at the top of class 3A-4A in the county. The Warriors might be slowed a bit early on with standout Donte Dudley out for at least three weeks with a knee injury.

Dundalk, 14-11 last year, has four starters back and seven of its top eight players. The Owls have lots of height and good outside shooting and could have a big year.

Milford Mill (19-3), which lost to Dunbar in the region finals, appears to be the class of 1A-2A, led by strong point guard Kenny Bostic and inside forces Blanchard Hurd and Jermaine Dunn -- both 6-7.

Sparrows Point and Overlea also should have good seasons. Both were upset in the regional playoffs last year and hope to make amends.

There are enough variables to make the race for the Harford County League interesting.

Edgewood, winner of county and regional titles last season, has five of its top seven players back, and is pegged as the team to beat. Aberdeen, runner-up last season, has only one starter back, but good quickness.

C. Milton Wright played well in the county summer league, and Fallston is a big team that peaked at the right time in going to the state Class 1A semifinals before losing to Dunbar last season.

Joppatowne seems to be the best of the rest with a lot of guards for its running style of play, but Bel Air, Havre de Grace and North Harford will have the capacity to play with the others on occasion, but a lack of experience and size will make continuity a problem.

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