In the preseason, Dunbar coach Lynn Badham wasn't quite sure his Poets deserved the area's No. 1 ranking, and Saturday's shaky season-opening victory over Anacostia of Washington did little to soothe his nerves.
"There were too many teams that beat us last year," Badham said shortly before the start of yesterday's boys basketball game with visiting Southern. "I'm still concerned."
But the 83-61 rout of Southern (0-2) was a confidence-booster, particularly for 6-foot-6 Jamal Brown, who was a beast on the backboards with 16 rebounds, two dunks and three tip-ins for Dunbar (2-0).
"They came at us with everything they had, but we just played harder," said Brown, who finished with 29 points, five blocks, three steals and three assists. "I like us being No. 1."
Tim Lyles scored 21, including two second-period three-pointers, and had six assists and five steals. Dontaz Dean (6-5) had 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Lyles was 5-for-7 on free-throw shooting and improved to 17-for-20 in two games. Brown was 7-for-8 at the line and is 18-for-22.
The memory of last season was a motivator, Lyles said, referring to Dunbar's four losses after a 6-0 start. The slump included the Poets' first loss at home -- to Southwestern -- since 1988. "A lot of people said we broke tradition, thought we'd lose today. But we came out and kicked butt," Lyles said.
Dunbar led only 13-10 after a first period that was tied five times, but routed the Bulldogs, 27-12, in the second quarter. The Poets led by as many as 28 points entering the final period and were ahead, 76-49, with three minutes to play as Badham called on reserves.
"We came out fired up, thought we could win," said Southern's Emil Curry, who scored 10 of his 16 points in the third period. "Stuff we practiced for hours and hours, we didn't get done. They executed, we didn't."
The chief executioner was Brown, who, by halftime, had a game's worth of statistics with 20 points, 10 rebounds and two each in steals and blocked shots.
The Poets did the necessary mental damage with an 18-3 second-quarter run for a 31-15 cushion, including a stretch where they outscored the Bulldogs 11-0. Southern crept to within, 31-20, but was outscored 9-2 over the final three minutes of the half as Dunbar led 40-22 at halftime.
Dunbar's defensive pressure resulted in 18 steals and numerous fast breaks, particularly in the third period, after which the Poets led 65-37. In addition to Lyles, Brown and Dean, Larry Tucker (two steals, one assist), Derek Jones and Tony Johnson also excelled on defense.
"It was their press. Their defense. It changed the whole game. Our guards couldn't bring the ball up the floor," said Southern's Isaiah Johnson, a 6-6 center who had eight points and eight rebounds.
"We didn't use our press offense effectively, and we didn't run our half-court offense well at all," said Southern coach Meredith Smith, who also got 10 points from Tyus Johnson. "Generally, we just showed a lack of poise, which you can't do against good teams."
Conversely, Badham said, "We had a lot more composure and intensity than we did with Anacostia," a 58-55 victory over the Washington Post's third-ranked team. "That might have had something to do with us being at home."
Pub Date: 12/10/97