Ducks change, but course holds

Douglass: With a new starting five, No. 1 still hasn't strayed in the least toward losing. Its winning streak has climbed to 46.

February 08, 2003|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Three starters, including last season's All-Metro Player of the Year, graduated. The two other starters transferred. But the beat goes on for the Douglass High School boys basketball team.

The West Baltimore school is again atop the area's rankings, riding a streak of 46 consecutive victories. With a new starting lineup, the defending Class 3A state champion is getting the same results.

"Going into the season, we knew that we were one of the best teams in the city," said Douglass coach Rodney Coffield, whose Ducks are 18-0. "Once we started playing, we were head and shoulders above most of the teams we've played."

Jermaine Bolden (Northern), Charles Brooks (Patterson) and Daryl Clark (Southwestern) transferred to Douglass at the beginning of the school year. They have meshed with holdovers Lonnie Embry, Devine Morris and Brandon Russell. Embry, who missed the last half of last season because of an ankle injury, said he didn't expect the Ducks to again be a force.

"I didn't think we had it in us," said Embry, a 6-foot-2 senior guard. "I knew we were going to be good, but not this good."

The 2001-02 Douglass squad was arguably the most dominant since Dunbar's mythical national championship squad went 29-0 in 1991-92. The Ducks ripped though the Poets twice at Dunbar's fabled East Baltimore court en route to the city title, then swept past then-undefeated Chopticon of St. Mary's County and Prince George's power Gwynn Park at Cole Field House to cap a 28-0 campaign.

Tyler Smith (now at Philadelphia Christian Academy), The Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year, graduated. So did Richard Dorsey (Mount Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina) and Darryl Edwards (Ellsworth Community College in Iowa). Gerald Brown, another All-Metro first-teamer, left for Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia and Dereck Brooks transferred back to St. Frances. This season's Ducks squad has been motivated to show it is just as capable.

"People doubted us last year, saying we weren't going undefeated so we're trying to show them this year," said Russell, a senior forward. "This is a whole different team. We've gotten help from Jermaine and Charles, and me and Lonnie know what it's like to experience a championship season. We're just trying to go down that road again."

Bolden, a 5-7 junior sparkplug, has carried most of the scoring burden with Embry and Morris in the backcourt. Brooks (6-7) along with junior Tre Love (6-6), who was ineligible last season, start on the front line. Douglass isn't the potent, high-flying act of a season ago, but the Ducks say they are much deeper.

"We have great athletes," said Bolden, who averages a team-high 16.5 points. "We can go to the bench and get the same production."

Bolden, who started last season at Northern, said he had some behavorial problems at the northeast Baltimore school, which has been since split into two schools, and needed a "change of scenery." With all the transfers on the Ducks' roster, Coffield said it's a direct result of their breakout season of a year ago.

"Winning the state championship and that we're attracting a lot of positive attention, we realized kids are going to want to come to a program that's successful," said Coffield, who has led Douglass to two city championships in eight seasons.

"I knew one day we would be good, not because of X's and O's and good athletes, but because of the motivation the coaches and administration gives the kids. I knew we would be good, but I didn't know we would be making these strides."

The Ducks started becoming familiar with each other during the fall, playing in a fall league at the West Baltimore school against several area teams, including Annapolis, Westminster, Bel Air, Lansdowne and Long Reach. The Ducks still had reservations heading into the season, but those were quickly answered in the season opener.

Down 17 points in the final period, the Ducks rallied for a 67-66 win over Spingarn (D.C.) at the Baltimore/Washington Challenge at Dunbar. Like their victory last season at then-No. 1 Walbrook that started their surge to a perfect season, the Spingarn triumph may have been the turning point for Douglass this winter.

"This team seems to bring as much energy as last year's team," said Southwestern coach Terry Leverett. "Not as tall, maybe not as gifted. Coffield's got those guys playing on all cylinders. They're not missing a beat."

Douglass has a shot at reaching Dunbar's 52-game winning streak (from 1990 to 1992), second longest only to the Poets' run of 59 straight (from 1981 to 1983). The Ducks say they're more concerned about another streak - a second straight city and state championship.

"We're not even worried about it. We're just taking it one game at a time," said Russell, whose team plays No. 9 Dunbar on Tuesday at Morgan State. "If we look ahead to being 52-0 or whatever, we know we won't make it. The goal for this team is to go out every game, play our hardest and leave everything on the court."

Said Coffield: "They're creating their own identity. What we tell them before each game, what happened last year or what happened last week is history, now you've got to create your own history."

Top streaks

Here are the top three winning streaks by area boys basketball teams:

School Year Streak

Dunbar 1981-83 59

Dunbar 1990-92 52

Douglass 2001-03 46

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