No. 1 Dunbar dons crown to cap off spectacular season

Poets turn back Linganore with late flurry, 53-36

Girls 2A state final

March 12, 2000|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Dunbar's dream season came to a perfect close yesterday with the first girls state basketball championship in school history.

The No. 1 Poets scored the last 13 points to finally put away Linganore, 53-36, and claim the Class 2A crown at UMBC.

"All the hard work paid off," said Poets senior center LaKesha Wills, who finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds. "There was a lot of people who doubted us and things didn't go our way all the time, but we stayed together as a team, as a family and we won."

The state title polished off a season of firsts for the Poets and fourth-year coach Wardell Selby. They also won their first Baltimore City championship and their first regional title. Their final 25-1 record is the best in school history.

"It's beautiful," said Selby. "It's a good feeling for myself, for the girls, for Dunbar High School and for the city of Baltimore."

The Poets appeared on the verge of breaking open yesterday's game several times, but the Lancers (20-6) from Frederick County used a sticky man-to-man defense and 10 free throws to stay close through three quarters.

Toni Kennedy provided the Poets an emotional boost by banking in a 22-footer with two seconds left in the third quarter. The sophomore guard, who couldn't find her touch in Friday's 54-45 semifinal victory over Gwynn Park, said she didn't hesitate to take the shot which increased the Poets' lead to 38-32.

"I heard [Selby] say five and I thought, I'm going to get the last shot, I'm not going to give them a chance to go down and score. It was a prayer, but it went in."

The Lancers pulled within four early in the final quarter before the Poets finally regained the offensive stride that enabled them to score 21 first-quarter points.

After Linganore's Stephanie Hayes cut the lead to 40-36, the Poets shut the Lancers down the rest of the way. The 5-foot-10 Wills hit a 16-footer and then often-overshadowed starters Nikki Baylor and Tierra Little put the game away.

Baylor, a senior guard, scored her only points on a 20-footer to push the lead to 45-36 with 4: 16 left. Little, playing with four fouls, scored all eight of her points and grabbed six of her seven rebounds in the fourth quarter. After the 5-7 junior forward hit back-to-back baskets to give the Poets a 53-36 lead with 1: 23 to go, the Lancers didn't manage another shot.

"What made the big difference was that everybody stepped up," said sophomore point guard Tiffany Jones, who finished with three points and four assists. "It's not all about me, Kesha and Toni. Without everyone on the floor and everyone on our bench, we wouldn't be able to stay in the game. They were doubling me today, and Tierra and Nikki stepped up."

In the fourth quarter, the Poets made some adjustments, spreading the floor to try to give Jones the opportunity to penetrate and Wills the chance to cut back door. That strategy, plus strong rebounding and steals by Kennedy, Wills and Baylor kept the Poets in control.

The Poets almost always play against zone defenses and the Lancers' man-to-man created problems for Dunbar by putting double pressure on Wills inside and on Jones bringing the ball up the court.

"They did a good job forcing us to take the ball out of Tiffany's hands in the beginning of the game, which was a real good strategy," said Selby. "Then, we picked up some fouls and they got into the bonus early and scored nine points from the free-throw line that kept them in the first half."

The Lancers struggled with their outside shooting and got most of their first-half points by going inside to 5-10 Jodi Carpenter and 6-2 Vicky Michael, who combined for 18 points, while guard Hayes scored six of her eight at the free-throw line after attempting to penetrate.

Still, the Poets led from beginning to end, getting big plays from Wills when the Lancers cut the lead to two late in the second quarter and early in the third.

DUNBAR -- Baylor 3, Kennedy 14, Jackson 4, T.Jones 3, Little 8, Wills 21. Totals: 21 8-15 53.

LINGANORE -- Linehan 3, Davis 2, Carpenter 12, Michael 6, Hayes 13. Totals: 13 10-20 36. Half: D 29-23.

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