Poets use defense to make their point

Dunbar slows Gwynn Park in second half to win, 54-45

Girls 2A state semifinals

High Schools

March 11, 2000|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Averaging 80.5 points a game, No. 1 Dunbar went into the state girls basketball tournament as the highest-scoring team, but the Poets' defense earned them the victory yesterday.

The Poets used a 2-3 zone in the second half to stop Gwynn Park's running game en route to a 54-45 win in a state Class 2A semifinal at UMBC. LaKesha Wills and Tiffany Jones combined for 10 points in a 12-0 run that pushed the Poets' lead as high as 14 with three minutes left in the game.

In the title game at 1 p.m. today at UMBC, the Baltimore City champs will meet Linganore, a 45-42 winner over defending champion Parkside in the other semifinal.

At first, the Poets (24-1) seemed headed for an early exit in the first state tournament appearance in school history. The Yellow Jackets (23-3) of Prince George's County kept the pace quick, moving the ball with lightning speed.

Still, the Yellow Jackets couldn't push their lead to more than six even though the Poets' top two scorers -- Wills and Toni Kennedy, averaging 40 points between them -- combined for just five points in the first half.

A couple of spurts kept the Poets close. In one, Jones made two steals that Tierra Little and Kennedy converted in the last seven seconds of the first half to pull within 27-25.

The Yellow Jackets out-rebounded the Poets early, limiting Dunbar's second chances and sparking a potent transition game. The Yellow Jackets also exploited openings in the middle, where 6-foot-1 center Charmaine Carr scored 10 of her 19 points in the first half.

In the second half, Poets coach Wardell Selby switched from a 1-2-2 zone to a 2-3 zone, which closed off the middle and stifled Gwynn Park's fast break.

"We realized they were throwing 70 percent of their passes in to [Carr]," said Selby, "so we decided to switch to the 2-3 zone, not play the wing and force them to shoot from outside. When they missed a couple shots and they couldn't throw it in to [Carr] easily, that seemed to throw them off."

Dunbar took advantage. Kennedy sparked the Poets' surge, converting a steal and then a transition layup from Jones for a 35-34 lead to end the third quarter. Kennedy, who struggled with her three-point shot all afternoon, opened the fourth quarter with a 20-footer.

Wills, who finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, then began dominating inside, converting a couple of follows and feeding Little, who had picked up the slack in the first half and finished with 11 points and five rebounds.

"Wills only scored two points in the first half, but you're not going to hold a kid like her down," said Gwynn Park coach Marvin Vann. "She just came back and dominated the ball game."

By the time Wills, Jones and Little finished off the fourth-quarter 12-0 run, the Poets' lead was up to 50-36 with 2: 48 left.

Girls basketball playoffs

State semifinals (At UMBC)

Yesterday's games

Class 2A

Dunbar 54, Gwynn Park 45

Linganore 45, Parkside 42

Class 1A

Glenelg 56, Rising Sun 27

Allegany 66, Pocomoke 47

Thursday's games

Class 4A

Arundel 73, Frederick 58

Oxon Hill 49, Western 46

Class 3A

DuVal 55, Paint Branch 49

Milford Mill 75, Thom. Stone, 63

State finals

Today's games

Class 2A

Dunbar vs. Linganore, 1

Class 4A

Arundel vs. Oxon Hill, 3

Class 1A

Glenelg vs. Allegany, 6

Class 3A

DuVal vs. Milford Mill, 8

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