Elliott, Nolan power Dunbar past Allegany

March 13, 1994|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Special to The Sun

COLLEGE PARK -- The Allegany Campers and more than 5,000 of their fans made the long trek from Cumberland to Cole Field House last night in search of the school's 15th state title -- by far the most in Maryland high school history.

But just six minutes into the Class 2A championship game, it became painfully obvious that the defending state champions had never faced a team quite like second-ranked Dunbar.

The Poets jumped out to a 23-8 lead and never looked back, running away for a 90-62 victory to give them their second straight state title.

"We came out and played hard from the start," said 6-foot-8 forward Rodney Elliott, who scored a game-high 29 points, including 18 in the first half. "We never gave up and played until the whistle blew. If we play a solid 32 minutes, we know we can win."

Elliott and 6-8 center Norm Nolan dominated play in the middle for Dunbar, combining for 54 points while forcing the Campers' offense to the perimeter.

Allegany (25-1) -- which saw its school-record 31-game winning streak come to an end -- got 44 of its 62 points from guards.

"I thought we got some good shots early, but they didn't drop," said Allegany coach Toby Eirich. "You have to give Dunbar credit, they're a good team."

Early on, that was obvious.

Leading, 11-8, the Poets (23-3) began using their quickness to create turnovers, and went on a 12-0 run that not only gave them control of the game, but took the partisan Allegany crowd out of it.

"We set the tone in the first quarter," said Nolan, who has played on three state championship teams, the first with Milford Mill in 1992.

"I was lucky to win the first time. The second time was great because most people don't even win once. But three -- I'm just overwhelmed."

Dunbar -- ranked 15th nationally by USA Today -- looked impressive from the opening tip, setting the tone for the game when Elliott scored the first of his points on a breakaway layup five seconds into the game.

Allegany seemed to be surprised by Dunbar's physical style of play, which kept the Campers' shooting percentage to below 35 percent.

"It was a physical game, and that was not to our advantage," said Eirich. "It's not the kind of style we've seen before."

The Poets, who have gone through physical battles with nationally ranked Southern-Baltimore, Simon Gratz and Rice, seemed happy to win, though nowhere near as elated as other winners.

"It feels great, but it's kind of a subdued great," said first-year coach Paul Smith. "I looked at the clock with 12 seconds left and I thought I should be jumping up and down or something. But when you look at all this team has gone through this year, it's just nice to have won."

Indeed, this Dunbar team had to overcome a number of !c problems -- many of them stemming from the removal of former coach Pete Pompey before the season.

Some starters complained about their playing time at various points of the season, though Smith stands by his coaching philosophy.

"My philosophy for this team was that I didn't care who scored as long as we won," said Smith. "We still average over 86 points a game. We just did it in a different way."

Last night was a prime example of Smith's influence, as nine players scored for Dunbar.

"Today we were focused, which was a big concern of mine because we haven't done that all the time," said Smith. "This is probably the best coaching thrill I've ever had."

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