Though Dunbar was making its fourth consecutiv appearance in the state Final Four yesterday, playing on the floor of Cole Field House was new for most of the No. 2-ranked Poets.
After a slow start, Dunbar became comfortable with the surroundings, defeating Gwynn Park of Prince George's County, ranked No. 1 in the Washington area, 81-69, in a state 3A semifinal game.
Freshman point guard Tim Lyles led Dunbar (20-6) with 19 points and Atman Smith added 17 and five rebounds. Rashard Hart scored 15 points to lead Gwynn Park (21-4) and Dion Dove scored 11.
The Poets advance to the state title game, where they will play Kennedy, ranked No. 16 in the Washington area, tomorrow afternoon at 3.
Kennedy stopped Randallstown, 92-73, yesterday.
Dunbar has yet to lose in 16 state tournament games, but yesterday's matchup with the Hornets was supposed to be its toughest challenge to date at the University of Maryland.
With Tommy Polley in foul trouble and not much of a factor, the rest of the Poets showed they are more than a one-man team, and are now just a victory away from a fourth straight state championship.
"People think Dunbar is Tommy Polley and a bunch of no-names," said Dunbar coach Paul Smith. "I don't mind that because that motivates the other players to make contributions." One of those players was Smith, who after picking up two early fouls and missing a layup, helped Dunbar open up a 60-51 lead after three periods. He scored 16 points in the first 24 minutes, including three three-pointers.
Gwynn Park kept attacking the Poets with a swarming press, but Dunbar handled it with the passing and ball-handling of Lyles, Durrell Garrett (six points, two assists) and Jamar Holt (10, two assists).
The Poets built a 74-61 lead with three minutes remaining, but a Gwynn Park rally cut the margin to eight with 2: 35 left. Then the Hornets, who shot 11-for-36 in the second half, failed to capitalize on consecutive possessions.
Dunbar went on a 7-0 run as Polley found Dean for a layup, then had a steal and a layup for a three-point play to pull away, to 80-66 with 1: 13 remaining.
"We got everybody involved," said Atman Smith, who was five of eight from the field. "Chris Dean got their big man into foul trouble, and we were able to get to the boards more."
The Poets trailed early, 14-5, but scored nine straight to pull even. Dunbar then opened the second quarter with a 9-0 run and were never headed.
"We usually have four or five show up; today we had two or three and they had four or five," said Gwynn Park coach Steve Matthews. "Those are things that good teams do. Dunbar is well-coached and they made their shots and we didn't."
Pub Date: 3/08/96