COLLEGE PARK -- No. 1-ranked Southwestern required overtime -- and 14-for-19 free-throw shooting -- to overcome Parkdale, 81-75, and win the 4A championship game last night at Cole Field House. The victory completed a 27-0 unbeaten season.
Starting the fourth quarter with a 13-point lead over Parkdale of Prince George's County, Southwestern's Cornelius McMurray told teammate D'artegnon Smith, "This is it, Shorty, this is it."
But that wasn't it at all.
Tremain Rowles tied the game at 61 on a basket with 33.2 seconds left in regulation for Parkdale (19-9), which brought a 10-game winning streak and a No. 7 ranking by the Washington Post into the game.
Southwestern's Terrell Dantzler went to the foul line at the end of regulation with a chance to win it, but rimmed out his first attempt and missed his second.
In the extra period, the Sabers took over and won it at the free-throw line -- McMurray was 5-for-6, Robert Gray 5-for-7, reserve Jason Duncan 2-for-4 and Earl Carr 2-for-2.
McMurray also had three steals in overtime.
"It's been like that all year. The kids are 27-0, they find a way to win the close games," said coach Terry Leverett, whose career record improved to 108-33.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We ran into some foul trouble and they made great shots," said McMurray. "It was starting to slip away. We had to take our game to another level tonight in overtime."
The Sabers became Baltimore's first unbeaten team since the 1991-92 Dunbar Poets went 29-0 for the mythical national high school championship.
Southwestern, which beat Lake Clifton the first of three times on Dec. 10 -- when the Lakers were ranked No. 14 nationally -- has received no national recognition all season. It is believed to be the first time a No. 1-ranked Baltimore area team has completed an unbeaten, untied season without receiving some national notice.
Calvert Hall (1982, 34-0) and Dunbar (1983, 31-0) also went unbeaten. Calvert Hall won a national title with a No. 1 ranking by USA Today.
Southwestern's Earl Carr made the first basket in overtime, but Parkdale's Jerome Matthews converted a three-point play to give the Panthers a 64-63 lead, their first since the first quarter. After Parkdale's Rowles stole the ball from McMurray, teammate Macklin Thorton's free throws made it 66-63.
Gray, who played with four fouls since early in the fourth period, trimmed it to 66-65 with two free throws and 3: 01 left in overtime. Then, after McMurray's steal landed in the hands of Carr, Gray's tip-in put the Sabers up permanently, 67-66, with 2: 15 left.
After that, it was a Southwestern parade to the foul line.
McMurray finished with 20 points and shot 8-for-10 from the free-throw line. Gray scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, shot 11-for-16 from the free-throw line and 8-for-15 from the floor. Carr scored 14 points, shot 5-for-7 from the floor and went 4-for-4 at the free-throw line.
"We had to fight hard," Gray said. "I dreamed that I would win the city championship and the state championship before I graduated. This is a dream come true."
Rowles had a game-high 30 points for Parkdale. He also grabbed 11 rebounds and shot 5-for-6 from the line. Tremaine Price finished with 14 points.
Pub Date: 3/16/97