COLLEGE PARK -- There hasn't been a Norman Nolan or Donta Bright patrolling the paint for the Dunbar Poets this season. Nor have they had a Muggsy Bogues or Michael Lloyd roaming the backcourt.
But a lack of big-name players hasn't kept this team from taking its place among the school's elite. Last night at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House, the second-ranked Poets proved that it's teamwork that wins state championships.
After struggling early, they used a 12-6 run to open a small lead at halftime, then scored the first 12 points of the third quarter to break the game wide open en route to a 100-58 win over Oakland Mills in the Class 2A state final.
The victory gave Dunbar (25-1) its third straight state title. Moreover, it lent credence to the team concept that coach Paul Smith has stressed since taking over the program last season.
"That's part of my philosophy," said Smith, who had all five starters average double figures. "This year we don't really have the one big-name go-to person. But I felt we had five pretty good players, and we could use all of their assets.
"You can't stop all five of us if we're working together."
That certainly proved to be the case last night.
Forward Marvis Thornton led the Poets with 28 points and 12 rebounds, but a number of other Poets contributed to the win, including center Robert Foster (23 points, 13 rebounds), forward Tommy Polley (16 points) and guards Billy Wills (14 points, four assists) and Jeryl Singleterry (eight points, four assists).
Thornton said the Poets' great teamwork comes from years of playing together in East Baltimore.
"We've played together since we were young," said Thornton. "Regardless of what people think about us, we know how good we are."
Early on against Oakland Mills, however, Dunbar had its problems.
The Scorpions (22-4) battled in the opening minutes, dictating the tempo, making seven of their first 10 shots and taking a
14-10 lead after Irving Conwell's driving layup with 4:07 left in the first quarter.
But from there it was all Dunbar.
Led by Thornton and Polley -- who each scored 12 in the first half -- the Poets began to turn the tide, switching to a 1-3-1 defense to stop penetration and taking the lead for good on Thornton's 10-footer late in the quarter and never looking back.
Leading 28-26, they outscored Oakland Mills, 24-6, over the next eight minutes to extend their margin to 52-32 midway through the third quarter.